Lawyer and national press secretary of Peru Libre, Eduardo Bendezú: «These elections signify the rebellion of the people against a system that has excluded them»

In an interview with El Ciudadano, the lawyer and national press secretary of Peru Libre, Eduardo Bendezú, stressed that this electoral process «precisely signifies the rebellion of the people against a system that has excluded them not in thirty years, but in two hundred years»
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In an interview with El Ciudadano, the lawyer and national press secretary of Peru Libre, Eduardo Bendezú, stressed that this electoral process «precisely signifies the rebellion of the people against a system that has excluded them not in thirty years, but in two hundred years». 

Likewise, he stressed that with Castillo, now the claims are no longer promises, but could be facts and warned that Fujimori represents the strongest brutality in recent Peruvian history.

By Denis Rogatyuk

EB: Thank you for the visit and for covering a process that precisely signifies the rebellion of the people against a system that has excluded them not in thirty years, but in two hundred years.

DR: What can you tell us about what kind of organization is Peru Libre?

EB: Peru Libre is a left-wing party, which claims, with just cause, the provincial issue. The issue of people who are not exactly in the capital, because there is a problem of tremendous centralism, which was born within what was the regionalization process as a level of Government of the country from 2002, and was officially founded as such since 2008. This regionalization has been having different work spaces, mainly electoral at the level of local governments, mayors, and regional governments.

We have been the regional government twice in Junín, a region in the center of the country adjacent to Lima, the capital. In the first period, from 2011 to 2014, we developed medical and educational programs, and currently, from 2019 to 2022, we are also a regional government.

Our structure is shaped like the structure of the Peruvian State, that is, we have a national executive committee, we have regional executive committees and local executive committees. Finally, we could point out that we have been developing this (political) work, at a national level, since 2012, touring all the regions and provinces of the country. 
We had a party registration process for many years, from 2012 to 2016. We have also participated in the regional and local elections of 2018 with different candidates and the 2020 complementary elections.

So these two characteristics, being of the left and a little more with a provincial, regionalist focus, outside the capital, I think have also meant a lot of identity of popular sectors, from the provinces, with us.

DR: What connection does the party have with the teachers’ unions and their union struggle?

EB: In general, the party has always tried to contribute to the spaces of the trade unions. We certainly do not have a strong job in trade unions, perhaps in the teachers union in our region, because many militants have also been activists within the union of teachers, whether within the Sutep (Unitary Union of Education Workers) or what later is the Federation of Education Workers headed by Pedro Castillo, specifically our link with the teachers’ movement is given as a result of this process of conversations in which Pedro Castillo, as a leader, as the head of the teachers union, decides to join Peru Libre and participate in these elections. That’s where we say all this adds up, this unity, that at the moment is giving us the results that we are experiencing.

DR: How would you evaluate the relationship with the trade union movement currently in this campaign?

EB: As a result of passing to this second electoral round, the two most important workers central unions in our country, the CGTP (Central General de Trabajadores del Perú) and the CUP (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores del Perú) have held conversations with the teacher (Castillo), with the leadership of the party, and from the beginning they have opted for a teacher, because Pedro (Castillo) also signifies precisely the union struggle, several prototypes are embodied in him, several visions of the ordinary Peruvian citizen, in this case, of the syndicalist.

That is why these centrals immediately contacted us and began to activate as a kind of militant body, spreading the ideas, spreading the proposals, defending the proposals and now we see that there is also a defense for the vote as ‘personeros’ (witness of the vote) on the 6th of June. And hopefully it will also be a constant activism, because the reforms, the changes that we propose to make, have us as our only guarantee, the citizen movement, the union movement as that driving force.

We know that by questioning and seeking these structural changes in our country, the power itself, the old power and its executors, are going to look for ways to strike (damage the process of change that we propose). We see that there is going to be some conflict but we have the majority of the Peruvian people, the ordinary citizens. That’s where the  participation of the workers unions is vital. Perhaps, at this moment, the unions should make that big leap from being spaces for economic or rights vindication to moving to a more clear political action, the conquest of rights, the conquest of the Government by the workers, the peasants, the intellectuals of our country.

DR: Are there rural and indigenous movements that are also part of Peru Libre or do they support Pedro Castillo’s candidacy?

EB: To both questions, the answer is affirmative. Peru Libre has mainly had greater force in the southern part of the country, in the highlands of the country, where there are different social or political movements closely linked to the peasant and native demands, and over the years of existence of the party, more have been added.

Now, with the arrival of Pedro, this number of movements has definitely been higher, even in some spaces that perhaps were more dedicated to certain claims and demands but who see that with Pedro now the claims are no longer promises, but could be facts. So, on that side, the activity has multiplied, a couple of weeks ago we had a meeting with civil organizations and the native indigenous communities were present, bringing proposals and also appointing some representatives to coordinate some tasks, either in this election or post-elections.

DR: How do you define the Peru Libre movement? As a revolutionary, Marxist, communist movement?

EB: We say that we are a leftist and socialist political party, which is already framed in the tradition of José Carlos Mariátegui, of the Latin American struggles and also driven by the progressive movement of the late last century and the beginning of this century, in which it also vindicates the famous Socialism of the XXI century. So we are immersed in that Mariateguist conjuncture and of the Socialism of the XXI century.

DR: What does Mariátegui mean to you?

EB: I think that Mariátegui, apart from his intellectual influence so far in Latin America, for Peru is a matter of identity. Second, the method he applies to understand and postulate changes in the Peruvian society, I think they are current, not his thesis as such because it is more than a hundred years or a hundred years around the seven essays, but his methodology for study. To understand that the main problem continues to be the economic one, which can be mixed with other problems such as cultural, ethnic, racial and centralism. 

For example, Mariátegui questions centralism a lot and unfortunately, up to this today, centralism is in force, then I think that part of Mariátegui’s ideology is also current and the issue of this classism that is mixed with racism and with that way that in Peru we have a ruling class, or a government but not a ruling class, that is, they have power but they do not know what to do with power. They let things flow according to international fluctuations. 

Also for us, it means that standpoint or point of view from which we build a great power that rises from the popular sectors that are going to have a cultural, ethnic and social vindication. To achieve a homeland in which subnational governments are consolidated. That is a bit of the notions that has nourished us a lot from Mariátegui.

DR: What is the international vision of the Peru Libre party? What kind of foreign policy do you expect from the presidency of Pedro Castillo?

EB: First of all, we have to demand that the right of national sovereignty be recognized. It is impossible for a people to exist without sovereignty, which is the capacity for self-government, in its forms, with its institutions, and respect that same right (sovereignty) in the international sphere. We believe that trying to interfere in foreign problems from the State, precisely violating this principle, brings many problems. That is what has   been done by the world powers.

Now, we also hope to strengthen the ties of historical friendship with other peoples. There is a historical episode in Chile, after the war of 1880, in which in Iquique, already Chilean territory, and in that time already of nitrate exploitation, there was a great strike in 1907 in which Chilean, Bolivian and Peruvian workers were assassinated. That is, at that time, the peoples were still united, those who continued with borders and frontiers were the powerful, the ‘countries’, the owners of the country, who wanted to have a slice.

Our view is that Latin America can have a different path, if we can make true what Bolívar said at some point, the Latin American confederation. I believe that there have already been many contributions, especially with this 21st Century Socialism promoted by Chávez , which precisely spoke of strengthening the Latin American peoples, strengthening their common market, also strengthening their artistic, aesthetic, and cultural forms, and that’s what we are going to do.

First, that our right to sovereignty be recognized, that there are no more military bases in the country. That there is no interference from other forms of government such as what has happened with NGOs many times in our country. On the other hand, our position to respect the sovereignty of other countries as forms of Government, in terms of forms of democracy, and at the same time promote Latin American unity.

DR: How have you resisted the media attacks? What has been your strategy?

EB: The good thing is that with so many years of monopolization of large media and the certainty that these large media were enough to handle the Peruvian population, they neglected local and provincial media, small regional media, which do not have, for example, support from the central government in terms of advertising. They (the State) does not give millions of ‘soles’ for the publicity of the State to pass, so these spaces have been a kind of channel for annoyance, anger and questions from the population, because these local media allows several things, to report, to send their complaints, to have a dialogue with the host of the program and many times, these immediate problems are solved.

On the other hand, there are the social networks. In the specific case of the campaign, they questioned us that we did not have official spaces, but we did, at least on Facebook there were official spaces, but at the same time, being such a diverse campaign, with a particular points of view from the social, workers unions, and geographical sectors that were also diverse, there were publications other than Pedro, but this dialogue occurred, between candidates for Congress, who put forward some ideas, so people asked, there was a dialogue more direct, and the same with alternative, independent or local means of communication.

A curious fact, of the 100% of the money that the Onpe (National Office of Electoral Processes) gave to our party for State advertising, 90% was allocated to these local media, and it was the only political party that allocated such a high amount to these media. So they, the media, felt that for the first time they were taken into account, into consideration, and there has also been a certain sympathy, we cannot deny it, there is a strong sympathy towards Pedro, because he has spoken a lot on the subject to democratize these funds that the State has for advertising for the media.

So, they did not see that coming. There was a combination of circumstances for a second electoral round to happen, but on the specific issue of the media we bet on the local media and it gave us good results, because we knew that our strength was mainly going to come from the provinces, from the educational sectors, farmers, and time has proved us right.

DR: An interesting thing, something that surprised many, is that Pedro in the first round was one of the few candidates who had almost no presence on social networks …

EB: Of course, when we have the results of the first round, there is, I think, an image from CNN or another international media, in which they say Pedro Castillo in first place and they put the silhouette of a man, but no more, the face is not there, There is no image of Pedro, and on the other hand there is the image of the other candidate (Keiko).

Other analysts also said that this has been the triumph of real Peru versus official Peru, or fiction, and we understand that even the most progressive sectors of the country thought that social networks were enough, or have the support of certain intellectuals to get to generate a matrix of opinion, what they forgot was that this was applied for a long time in our country, and they always voted for the lesser evil, or for someone who generated some sympathy, but in this case it was different, because Pedro is literally an ‘everyday man’. He is a common person, like the vast majority of the people, and this fact of walking was not so random. I do not know if it was because he was not interested in the social networks, we did have a Facebook account, the Twitter account is true, Pedro opened it in the second round, but there was this use, this approach, also virtual interviews, but he understood two things, that it was easier to have direct contact with that population that does not have internet access, which is the majority. The pandemic showed us that only 40% of the population has access to the internet, 60% does not, so we are talking about a huge ‘space’ in which we still have to communicate either by radio, local television, or by word of mouth.

So, on the one hand, that was one of the elements for Pedro to walk, and secondly, because he and the party had bases throughout the country, mainly in the mountains and in the south, so he took advantage of this work that he had done for a long time, to go and arrive and somehow ‘mythologize’, because from one moment to another a stranger who arrives in a town, who does not have much sympathy, not a lot of welcome, reaches others and has more and more followers, filling places. He (Castillo) is the only candidate who has literally filled places in the first and second round. He is the one for us, and that spread the word, of who he is, an everyday teacher. 

For a politician is a bit difficult, you see him on television, you hear him on the radio, you see him through photos in newspapers, but you see a teacher almost every day, the school teacher, the one you greet, the one who educates you.
So, this meant a lot in this campaign and it was shown that it is not all social networks, that although it is true it is an instrument that helps us communicate, it is not enough to give it that human, spiritual aspect that every great work needs, and this is a work in time and in a transcendental situation for our country.

DR: One of the proposals of Professor Pedro Castillo’s campaign is a process for a new Constitution. What vision do you have of how to develop this process? Are there other processes on the continent that inspire this proposal such as Chile, Bolivia or Ecuador?

EB: Each one has its particularity in terms of mechanism as such, in terms of how this assembly is going to be structured, but they all have the common denominator that it is a massive demand, from the majority of the citizenship.

In this case, let us remember that when the fall of the Fujimori dictatorship occurred in the year 2000, I think that all the political groups spoke of two things, a new Constitution or a return to the Constitution of 79, even Ollanta Humala gained a lot of fame, he became known with this request in 2006, so we claim that, like many other small organizations. Apart from that, last year more or less in September, a poll came out in which 70% of the Peruvian people were in favor of a new Constitution.

Now, how is this going to be put into practice? We have indicated that there are going to be two mechanisms, the first a constitutional reform of the article 206 that talks about the mechanisms for modifying the Constitution. Although it (the article) does not talk of a new Constitution, there is talk of partial or total reforms but of a new Constitution, no, then we are going to find the way in which this article, this part, and the second part, which is to call a referendum to precisely strengthen, legitimize this process. It will be there when an election process is called for the formation of a constituent assembly .

Let’s hope this is the case, because if we see other processes, for example, the Bolivian and the Chilean who are the closest, they have been very bloody, even the Ecuadorian, they have lost many lives in this fight. The Chilean has cost not only life, but multiple injuries, but with that blood it has promoted that new Constitution, but, also, at the same time it has allowed other political actors to come to a greater arena, such as the case of the mayor of Santiago de Chile.

DR: What do you think is the biggest reason why there is so much anger, hatred, towards Keiko and all this ideology of Fujimoriism?

EB: Fujimorism represents the strongest brutality in our recent history. We were in an internal process of armed violence, which was not the first in our history because Peru has always been in turmoil, there have always been forces in conflict, even in December 2020, there was a great strike by agro-export workers that resulted in three deaths, and the underlying problem has not been solved. 

In the nineties, when Fujimori arrived with some slogans, among them, the privatization of all services, health and education, making economic shocks that implied putting thousands, or even millions of people in the country into poverty, but it also implied ending subversion, with these insurgent groups that were Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA, but at the cost of terror, of fear, of blackmail, of the systematic violation of human rights. 

And in that, we have to be very clear, because Fujimorism did not end Sendero with the use of intelligence, I think that should be settled in our country. The intelligence of the police was almost also ‘clandestine’ to capture Abimael Guzmán and give him a blow from which he could not recover, but what Fujimori did before that and after that, was persecute trade union, student and social leaders, disappear them, torture them, rape them, incinerate them, and he did not care if these people had some degree of responsibility or not, what mattered was to generate fear, terror. That is, to return to that old form of right wing politics in which it is considered that it is through fear that the population is controlled, it is through fear as an ‘educational matter’ that people stop performing a prohibited act.

But in this case it was so atrocious, that we remember that involved murdered children, that there have been women who had nothing to do with this process, who simply did not count as human beings and who were sterilized, that is, when you consider someone as a human being, you generate certain respects, among them, such as asking them if they are for or against doing something in their body, but here they did not consider it that way. 

We went back to the time of the colony in which someone comes and ‘you are not human and I will do whatever I like with you’.

Of that, the cruel thing is that twenty years, twenty-five years later there is not a small sign of remorse, or even an evaluation, because for Fujimori, for this lady who was already in prison for several months, for more than a year I think , when they talk about this crime, because there is no other adjective to call it, (she says) it has been a ‘planning policy’. 

Then, let’s imagine what is the degree of arrogance to lie to the people and, above all, what is the ethical level of the big media in our country so as not to question that, so as not to tell you that it was not a ‘health policy’, it was a crime. It was as if someone who goes to your house and robs you. It is at that level or even higher, because they touched the only thing that is really yours, which is your body, your integrity, and that there are still people who cannot believe that this happened, well, that is because there is a colonial heritage, a tremendous racist heritage in our country that thinks that if one is poor, it is because they want to , because the person does not want to work, and that is a lie.

There is not sufficient work, jobs are not generated, how can jobs be generated in our country if there is no national industry? at least strong. If national entrepreneurs are not promoted or protected so that they can start to have particular areas of commercial activity, such as textiles, such as the minerals that come out here in large quantities.

The anti-Fujimori movement claims that, that they do not want to ‘pass the page’ of that genocide, that atrocity that was lived in the nineties and they do not want to be subjected again by that Fujimori majority of about five years ago when they simply governed or did what they wanted to damage the country, to do their whims.

And that if some corrupt people were ‘struck out’, it was not for an intention to destroy the corrupt system but simply to damage the opponent of the moment, but at no time is there a concern for the country. What do they have as a country project? what is their real view of a project for the country? from our perspective, they think that this country should continue to have the majority subjected, these ‘cholos’ who have no rights, and that only these powerful ones, those who have always had money, have the right to enjoy all the benefits at the cost of lives, the environment, privatization, whatever.

So, that must be something key that the Peruvian population should understand. We as Peru Libre, that have been accused of any number of things, can proudly say that when we have been a regional government, we have vindicated health and education as rights and not as services, and that they can criticize us, and perhaps some actions can be questioned, but we have never acted against the population, nor have we had a mafia, a criminal apparatus to carry out illicit activities, as the Fujimorism and other parties in our country do.

We have seen, as a young party that is growing, different, that represents that incredible cultural variety that our country has.