Elected congresswoman, Isabel Cortez: «The Constitution that we have now is the mother of the corruption that exists in Peru»
In an interview with El Ciudadano, Isabel Cortez, congresswoman-elect of Juntos Por Perú and leader of the Sitobur union (of the workers in the public cleaning sector in the Metropolitan Municipality of Lima), reiterated her support for Castillo and called on all citizens to support him . «We need a change, we need a president in Peru with a human face, a government that protects our children, women and our elderly», she said.
She also spoke about the importance of a constitutional change and stressed that «the Constitution that we have now is the mother of the corruption that exists in Peru».
By Denis Rogatyuk
DR: The latest polls show an advantage for the leftist candidate Pedro Castillo, particularly in the southern regions and also in rural areas. How do we explain this overwhelming support for a leftist union leader, despite the fact that an anti-communism, anti-socialism sentiment is so strong in this country?
IC: I am from the left, that is why I also support the Peru Libre party that Professor Castillo is leading, and our objective is to fight for the rights of the workers, the human right to work, health, education and the protection of our natural resources. That is the reason why of the support for Prof. Castillo, and that is what I invoke to all citizens, to all colleagues from this region of South America, from all over the world, because in all the countries there are workers, so, as a representative of the workers I call on all of you for support.
We need a change. We need in Peru a president with a human face, a government that protects our children, women, our elderly, that governs benefiting all of them, the poorest people, may his government be for the benefit of the people.
We are already tired of the traditional politicians, who are the right wing, who for years have governed us and each time they have made us more precarious. They have stolen our rights, for example, many of our worker’s benefits have been cut, then they have made us precarious. They have sold all our natural resources, they have given them to the highest bidder without seeking the benefit of the people. They have made contracts without control, which really harm us, the workers, and also the country economically.
We want a change. We want our country to move forward, to grow economically, that there are no more poor people. That there is no more precariousness. That there is no more violence among ourselves. If we demand something, if we protest for something, what the Government does is to confront us with each other, among Peruvians, sending the police forces to run us over, to violate us. Many of them, our young people, have lost their lives, their lives have been taken for claiming their rights.
So we no longer want that, the right has always been accusing usof everything, they talk of terrorism, that the left is terrorism, that the left is bad, that is totally false. Terrorism, I could say that it no longer exists, what does exist is State drug trafficking, because it is the State that does not fight to especially eliminate drug trafficking. Then, as we also already have from experience that some traditional politicians of the extreme right have been linked to drug trafficking, that is what is causing bad ‘views’ today. Because of them, they sometimes blame us, they link us to their ‘activities’, but it is all false.
The only thing that the left seeks is to achieve rights, defend citizens, defend the people. I am from the left, I am a worker, and I have nothing else to defend. For example, to recover the rights of my colleagues that I also have lived (the process to recover my rights) as I have been fired twice. Many of my colleagues have also been fired.
Currently, there are massive layoffs of 200, 300 workers. In these ‘pandemic times’, businessmen, multimillionaires, monopolies have taken advantage, despite the fact that they have received Reactiva Peru. The State has financed them with money with Reactiva Peru so that they do not fire their workers, but all these bad businessmen have done is that they have put the support that the State has given them in their pockets. They have fired hundreds of workers, and above all that, in this 21st century the majority of workers are women, they are mothers who in some way seek to raise our children, our country, so regardless of any of that, they have caused these massive dismissals in complicity of the bad State officials because they have approved a decree that they call an emergency decree, we call it ‘the perfect suspension’. That decree has been approved in the midst of a pandemic, but the businessmen have used it in their own way and causing many layoffs.
Many people have even committed suicide, many people have died, not because of the pandemic, but because of the corruption that was there between the State with these bad businessmen, billionaires, monopolies, that are here in Peru.
DR: I would like to talk a little more about the role of the media in the defamation of the left and basically campaigning for the right …
IC: Unfortunately, here, in our country the press has also sided with the political party of the right, the only thing it has done is defame, deceive and accuse those on the left. The media is always making headlines that the left is complicit in such an event, that it is linked to Sendero Luminoso. As we say, it is looking for the cat’s fifth leg.
It is really outrageous for us workers, for ordinary people, humble people, poor people, how our media instead of investigating, of giving us a true communication that is logical, with realities, they deceive us. They think we are stupid, because as we do not have that study, that career that they have as communicators, as journalists, they believe that we do not understand or do not see reality, what is happening around us, but ‘the joke is on them’, because they think us fools, but we are not. We can have the face of fools but we are not so stupid.
That is what they are seeing now, that Professor Castillo is the only hope as a government here in Peru, so these media obviously defend their interests, because the large media here in Peru are owners of billionaires. We understand it because they are defending their interests. They want a right-wing party to enter the presidency so that they can manage the State at will, misinforming us, making us fight each other, sowing chaos because that’s what they live on. The tragedies of each country, are manipulated by the economic elites of the billionaires.
That is regrettable, that this is also happening here in our country. We already have it clear, but thanks to social networks, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the small media that we also have here in Peru and also to those who come from abroad, like your media (El Ciudadano), thanks to them we are seeing the reality of the people, the workers, we are informed and that is why these ‘gentlemen’ are getting out of hand.
DR: What does Juntos Por el Perú and the Nuevo Perú, expect from the presidency of Pedro Castillo?
IC: We hope he wins, we are sure that he will win. He will be our president, and Juntos Por el Perú will be there to continue fighting for the defense of the rights of workers, of the citizens, the people, to continue fighting for a free and quality health system, a free and quality education with well-paid teachers. Currently, our teachers are not recognized, and our health system, with doctors, with specialists, with oxygen… above all, that will be our fight, not to allow that there are more deaths due to corruption, because in this pandemic the Peruvian people were not hit by the pandemic, they have been hit by the corruption of the State, by these bad State officials who have allowed themselves to be involved by corruption, who have profited with our health.
Then no more, with Prof Castillo and Juntos Por el Perú, we are going to fight with the political party of Perú Libre and Juntos Por el Perú will be there supervising, at the same time supporting this fight for the benefit of the Peruvians, the people, especially , of the humble people, of our neighborhoods, of our human settlements, where the people, the citizens of these areas are the ones who most need this change. Then, we will be fighting for it.
DR: What does the union movement hope or want to achieve under Castillo’s presidency?
IC: We unions, especially those in the private sector, seek the elimination, for example, of outsourcing. We want to eliminate contracting modalities that these traditional corruption politicians, who have been on the right wing, have done. For example, CAS contracts, contracts of service location. Three contracting modalities (including outsourcing), there are more, but these three main ones are the most damaging for us, the private sector workers who are with these contracting modalities.
So, our goal is to eliminate these contracts that are harmful to workers with the support or with Professor Castillo being president, because as a trade unionist, he is a teacher, a classroom worker, just as we are municipal cleaning workers, and he is a classroom worker, so we have that hope that he is going to support us, to support our request. To support us in recovering our fundamental rights that these politicians that we have had for decades have stolen from us, I say these criminals that we have had as government.
So, we have this hope that Prof. Castillo will support us in this goal, in this fight, he as a trade unionist. Since Fujimorism entered in 1990, the unions were destroyed, during the year 90-95, with the Constitution that Mr. (Alberto) Fujimori made, they destroyed many unions. There were hundreds and hundreds of dismissals and all the companies that belonged to the State, he gave to the highest bidder, so as a result of that there were a number of dismissals, unions ‘dismissed’, and it is during these thirty years that we are, little by little, recovering. We are going on a good path recovering, forming more unions, forming more associations, more federations, we have a central that is the CGTP (General Confederation of Workers of Peru).
It is weakened but we are strengthening it, as well as strengthening other unions and our goal is to make it strong, so that we can also face a future government. We do not know which government it will be, from 2026 onwards, and we are in that struggle, in that advance, we do not give up, but we are there advancing for the well-being of us workers because being unionized, fighting in an organized way, is very important because it is the only way to achieve objectives, to achieve benefits in favor of the workers, and not only for workers but also for society, for our peoples.
So, in an organized way, fighting as unions is our priority to move forward.
DR: What do you as unions, as a left-wing party, hope to achieve with a constitutional change? What are the key articles that should appear in the new Constitution?
IC: We do not seek radical change in our Constitution. What they approved in Chile is not radical, nor is what they did in Ecuador radical, but it is a Constitution of a change, of an improvement, one could say, a Constitution of improvement that goes to benefit the people.
In Peru or in the government of Professor Pedro Castillo we agree, Juntos Por el Perú coincides. We have agreed from the beginning, because what our young people, the people, the citizens, the peoples ask for a new Constitution, because the one we have was made at a time of dictatorship. The people were not consulted, no one was asked, they simply voted for the congressmen who were at that time and four friends met and did it in their own way, to their liking, and without caring for the people, or what will become of the workers.
That Constitution, the only thing it benefits is the multimillionaires, who in those years were millionaires, now they are billionaires. At that time they were only companies, now they are monopolies. It was to benefit them, to give away our natural resources to multimillionaires, because to this day, there are many mining companies that do not pay taxes thanks to the Constitution that we have.
There are many multimillion-dollar transnational companies, such as Telefónica and many more, we have a very long list, those who have their taxes ‘forgiven’, they do not pay. They look for ways to get around some laws that they have approved there but do not pay. They owe millions and million thanks to the Constitution that we currently have.
So we say that the Constitution that we have now is the mother of corruption that exists today, that is why our request, from us workers, myself as a representative of all the workers in the country, we demand a new Constitution. Our youth, the students of Universities, young professionals also demand a new Constitution. That is why we are going to make our proposal, or Prof Castillo’s proposal is to hold a referendum, ask the people. Even that, of asking the people to make a new Constitution, cannot be done because in the Constitution that we have, they have put ‘padlocks’ on it so as not to make a new one, in order not to be able to achieve it. ‘Padlocks’ have been put in, which say that Congress has to be consulted, which say that I don’t know who has to be consulted, but not the people.
For us, the importance here is what the people say, so if the people say yes through a referendum, it must be done. It is the people’s request, the voice is of the people, if the people say yes to a new Constitution, a new Constitution is made.
Also, it is not going to be that because the people said they want a new Constitution, I am going to take four friends and we are going to do it, no, that new Constitution, that approval of the people has to be requesting a Constituent Assembly, which will make a call to those who are going to prepare the new Constitution, who are going to participate in the elaboration, who are going to make the text of the new Constitution. So, there must be a cleaning worker, a firefighter, a policeman, a military man, a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a representative of the farmers, a representative of the mine workers, they have to be there, they are the ones who have to draw up that new Constitution, because they are the ones who know the true reality.
Who better than a farmer who knows the needs of farmers? Who better than a firefighter who knows what a firefighter needs to save lives? Who better than a nurse, a doctor? Who better than a teacher who knows the needs of our children? What our children need, our education right now, is free internet for all our children. In this time of pandemic, hundreds and hundreds of children are being left without education because of corruption. I do not blame the pandemic, it is because of those bad officials who are in the State. It is the fault of the right wing mafia.
That is where our Constitution will resemble, for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thats how it should be, where the priority is education, health, our children, our mothers, women, to protect our elderly. For example, a decent pension for our elderly who, after so many years of having worked for the State, do not deserve to be told, «no, you don’t have money, money is intangible. It cannot be touched», no, it has to be a Constitution that protects everything, our elderly, so that they have a decent pension, that the State be a participant in these companies.
That new Constitution must be like that, made by them. For example, in Bolivia and Ecuador, the State is a shareholder of their natural resources, without telling the businessman to leave, but he is a shareholder, so it is good and we have to do that.