Peru facing the polls dilemma: a brand of the left or the daughter of the dictator? | Peru
“Peru has always been a dark country; this is not the Caribbean, ”says writer and journalist Carlos Dávalos as traffic flows on Madrid’s Gran Vía on a sunny June morning. “There is that feeling of a sort of Andean melancholy.”
Although Davalos’ first novel, La Furia del Silencio (The fury of silence), made comparisons with the two The catcher in the rye and the Oscar-winning film by Alfonso Cuarón Rome, the coming-of-age tale is profoundly, and inevitably, Peruvian.
The gloom that permeates the book goes beyond melancholy as it chronicles a childhood and adolescence spent in Lima in the late 1980s and 1990s, a city of bombs, blackouts, water scarcity and blankets. – lights. The horror of the Shining Path uprising and the hypocrisy and corruption of President Alberto Fujimori’s authoritarian regime envelop its pages like the fog that covers Lima for much of the year.
As he examines Peru at the end of the last century, La Furia del Silencio arrives with the country once again in a national emergency and facing a massive political dilemma.
Last week, the government nearly tripled its official Covid-19 death toll to 180,764, making Peru the country with the highest per capita death rate in the world. As hospitals buckle under pressure and demand for oxygen exceeds supply, Peruvians prepare to vote in the second round of a hugely controversial presidential election, which takes place on Sunday.
Polls suggest a close race between Pedro Castillo, a far left but socially conservative union leader and teacher, and Keiko Fujimori, the neoliberal right-wing daughter of the imprisoned and dishonored former president.
As if the presence of a Fujimori in the presidential race was not enough to evoke an unfortunate déjà vu, 16 people – including two children – were murdered at the end of May during an attack attributed by the authorities to a dissident group from the Sentier luminous.
Like many of his compatriots, Dávalos – who has lived in Spain for the last 17 of his 42 years – is, to say the least, not enthusiastic about any of the candidates.
Castillo pledged to hold a referendum on rewriting the 1993 pro-market constitution and presented plans to expropriate foreign mining projects. Keiko Fujimori – who is accused of money laundering and running a criminal organization, charges she has denied – has promised to pardon her father, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for authorizing squadrons of the death and presided over widespread corruption and electoral fraud.
“It’s too close to say who will win, but there is a candidate who leaps into the void and could set us back 50 years, and on the other side, there is the daughter of the dictator.” , says Dávalos. “It’s a choice between starving and dying of unworthiness.”
His words echo those of Peru’s most famous writer. Mario Vargas Llosa, who ran unsuccessfully against Alberto Fujimori in the 1990 election – and who has spent the past 30 years attacking the dynasty’s toxic effect on Peruvian politics – recently called on people to support Keiko Fujimori , describing it as “the lesser of two evils”. The Nobel Prize winner said Castillo would undermine democracy, ruin Peru’s economy and leave the country “with all the hallmarks of a communist society”.
Dávalos’ memories of growing up in Lima under Alberto Fujimori and his predecessor, Alan García – including the frustration of not being able to go to the movies or finish watching a TV show due to the almost daily blackouts – inform much of of La Furia del Silencio.
Given that the writer describes Peru as “an eternal adolescent who did not learn to be a republic or behave like a republic” in the two centuries following its independence from Spain, it is normal that its protagonist, Facundo, is a teenager. Facundo, who appears to have narcolepsy – although the disease is not mentioned in the text – gradually opens his eyes to the rotten reality around him. A family crisis and an angry act of rebellion at his Catholic school causes him to abandon his comfortable life in the suburbs and head to the seedy center of Lima, where he soon loses his innocence in more ways than one.
But for all the trials of Facundo, Dávalos tries to point out that the trials of the middle class Limeños endured in the 1980s and 1990s could never begin to compare to the atrocities inflicted on rural civilians by terrorists and the government.
Eighteen years ago, the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that 69,280 people had been killed or disappeared between 1980 and 2000. Of these, 80% lived in rural areas and 75% spoke Quechua or others. indigenous languages.
“If anyone was having a bad time during the Terror Age, it wasn’t the people of Lima,” says Dávalos. “These were the people of the highlands, where most of the casualties and dead were. We lived the ricochets of it all: every day when we turned on the TV, it was death, blood and destruction.
The fate of the campesinos is embodied in the novel by Dávalos in the character of a woman who lives in a slum in Lima and who, along with her badly burned baby, appears at key moments.
La Furia del Silencio is the latest addition to a continuing boom in Peruvian writing that has wasted little time probing and dissecting the recent past. Like Vargas Llosa, Alonso Cueto, Santiago Roncagliolo, Daniel Alarcón, Martin Roldán Ruiz, José Carlos Agüero and Lurgio Gavilán, Dávalos wants to understand what happened and why.
“I think there was a time in the 1990s when it was hard to write about what was going on,” says Dávalos. “It takes a bit of distance to do that. There was also a Lima who didn’t want to watch what was going on, or who preferred to get away from it all.
Nonetheless, he is surprised at how quickly Peru has engaged in the sins of its recent past. In her adopted homeland, the pact of forgetting that helped Spain return to democracy after the Franco dictatorship made such discussions difficult for successive generations.
“It wasn’t until the last decade that people in Spain really started writing about the Civil War and all that it involved,” says Dávalos. “But it all happened so quickly in Peru.
Dávalos is already working on his next book, which will talk about the police officers who caught Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán in 1992 and a young journalist from the late 1990s who started out as a reporter under the Fujimori regime. begins to crumble.
Despite the evocations of Salinger and Cuarón, the work to which La Furia del Silencio is most often compared to the beginnings of Vargas Llosa, The hero’s time, who used a tough military academy in Lima as a microcosm in which to explore Peru’s social, economic, and ethnic divisions.
The book also has a lot in common with Vargas Llosa’s 1969 masterpiece, Conversation in the cathedral, in which the writer reflects on the pervasive corruption of Manuel Odría’s dictatorship in the 1950s. The novel begins with a famous rhetorical question: “At what precise moment did Peru screw up?”
Dávalos nods at parallels but suggests that now is the time to update the question. “I think we have to realize that we’ve always been screwed – I’ve never seen a time in our history where we’ve been okay,” he says. “But I think instead of asking ourselves when we screwed up as a country, we need to ask ourselves if we’re going to continue to screw each other up even more.”