Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Peru's Ruling Coalition Starts to Fracture

One year after elections, cracks are emerging in Peru’s dominant political coalition. Three leftist members of the country’s unicameral Congress broke with President Ollanta Humala’s Gana Peru alliance yesterday, objecting to Humala’s shift from a spirited leftist candidate to a relatively moderate president once in office, especially in relation to mining projects.

La Republica reports that the first of the three to break from Gana Peru, Veronika Mendoza, came as a “solid blow” to the Humala government. Mendoza was a founding member of Humala’s Nationalist Party, as well as a longtime friend of First Lady Nadine Heredia. In her renunciation letter, the congresswoman from the Cusco region criticized Humala’s position on the current mining conflict in her constituency, accusing the president of deceiving the country and “defending the neoliberal model.”

Mendoza’s decision paved the way for two other left-leaning legislators, Javier Diez Canseco and Rosa Mavila, to break from Gana Peru. Diez and Mavila also blasted Humala’s handling of mining conflicts in the country, and reserved special criticism for Prime Minster Oscar Valdes, whom the president has tasked with mediating the conflicts but has been condemned by the left as heavy-handed. All three lawmakers spearheaded a recent push in the Peruvian Congress to force Valdes to retire which was rejected by President Humala, who expressed complete support for the minister last week.

It remains to be seen whether any more members of Gana Peru’s left wing will leave the coalition. RPP reported in January that at least nine members of congress had begun to voice ideological differences with the Humala administration. Four of these, including Mendoza’s Cusco counterparts Ruben Coa and Jaime Valencia, are rumored to be considering a break with Gana Peru in the coming days.

Humala’s political opponents have predictably seized upon this internal division to critique the government. Opposition congresswoman Lourdes Alcorta of the Alliance for the Great Change alliance told Peru21 that the disunion was a sign of “immaturity,” saying that those who resigned were simply “not capable of explaining the reality of mining investment to the population, [and] incapable of  bringing order.” Despite such criticism, Gana Peru officials are attempting to minimize the departures and present a united front. This may be more difficult for them, and for President Humala, if the rumors of additional resignations come true.

News Briefs

  • A new poll from Mexico’s El Universal suggests that PRIista Enrique Peña Nieto is the indisputable frontrunner in that country’s presidential race with 44 percent support. Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is trailing with 28 percent, and the PAN’s Josefina Vazquez Mota is close behind him with 26 percent. However, analyst James Bosworth points out that a survey measuring “favorable” vs. “unfavorable” views of the candidates shows Peña Nieto losing a substantial amount of momentum to Lopez in recent weeks, meaning that this last month of the race before the July elections will likely be more competitive than previously thought.
  • In the wake of former PAN president Vicente Fox’s implicit endorsement of Peña Nieto on Sunday, The Economist examines the lack of support for Vasquez Mota among members of her own party, which has made it difficult for her campaign to raise funds.
  • Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, who is the country’s most unpopular president since the 1990 return to democracy, has seen a 7-point rise in support in the last month, according to a new Adimark poll. His approval rating now stands at 33 percent after reaching its lowest point ever in April.
  • Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab takes a look at some of the difficulties that Publica, Brazil’s first nonprofit news organization, has had in establishing itself since its start in March 2011. Because Brazil lacks a relatively long history of investigative journalism, Publica has decided to focus on key issues that are overlooked in the mainstream press, like the abuses committed by the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, development projects in the Amazon, and the country’s preparations for the upcoming 2014 World Cup.
  • Guatemalan Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno, known for his role as a mediator in talks between the government and leftist guerrillas in the 1990s, passed away yesterday in a Guatemala City hospital.
  • After making a name for himself as an outspoken critic of the Castro government (and Mitt Romney's potential running mate) Senator Marco Rubio has made his first-ever trip to the island of Cuba; the Florida senator visited the US military base at Guantanamo Bay last week in a trip that was widely seen as a bid to bolster his foreign policy credentials.
  • The Toronto Star has an interesting article on Cuba’s Latin American Medical School, where medical students from all over the world – including 116 Americans – are studying to become doctors.
  • IPS reports on the European Union-Central America Association Agreement (EU-CAAA), which is set to be signed in late June. Many analysts believe the treaty, which will open the markets of both regions to the industrial products of the other, will serve the economic interests of the EU more than  the countries of Central America.   
  • The Peruvian Supreme Court has ruled that Joran Van der Sloot, the main suspect in the 2005 disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway, can be extradited to the US to face charges, but only after he serves a 28-year sentence in Peru for the 2010 murder of Peruvian student Stephany Flores. The ruling will not be made final until it is approved by the Minister of Justice and Humala’s cabinet, however.