Interview with Peru's Ollanta Humala: "I connected with the people"
"I won because I connected with the Peruvian people," says Ollanta Humala, who will be inaugurated as Peru's president on July 28. (Photo: Marco Mendoza/LivinginPeru.com)
Presidential Debut. "I know the honeymoon will be short. The population has a great pent-up demand."
El Comercio interviews Peru’s president-elect three days after his victory.
By Milagros Leiva Gálvez
Translated by Susana Aguirre
How are you? First of all, congratulations on your victory.
Thank you very much, I'm fine. I'm adapting to the change. It's something new for me, it's the first time I'm president of the Republic of Peru and I'm making contacts with all political and productive forces in the country with the intention of creating peace and calm, with intentions of turning the page after the elections. I don't want to analyze the grievances. It's of no help.
Ollanta Humala supporters on the streets during he May 29 presidential debate. (Photo: Marco Mendoza/LivinginPeru.com)
Many Peruvians don't believe you and have fears. Do you have a message for those who continue to go to sleep wondering what Ollanta Humala will do?
My best message will be my actions. I don't want people to just give me their confidence. I know the honeymoon will be short, it would be naive of me to think they'll give three months' grace. People have pent-up demands, great expectations. I have seen too much inequality. As a soldier I have lived in such poor areas that you think, “even God hasn't been here.” Circumstances led me from a military career to politics and from politics to the presidency. When I was asked to retire in 2005, I asked to return, the defense minister denied me. If that hadn't happened I would have stayed in the army. That's fate.
Why were you let go? Toledo told me it was because you did political campaigning in Paris.
I was asked to retire due to a renewal. They thanked me and said they must renew... Later they told me I was associated a lot with my brother Antauro's newspaper.
Yes, that newspaper greatly attacked the army commander.
As well as President Toledo.
Sure... also, I sent a letter to [Toledo] to point out that his ascension wasn't fit because there were a series of charges. I noted respectfully that as a general he had moral and ethical problems, that he should step aside. It was taken as an irreverent letter.
As a revolt...
In some way.
Then, Toledo did you two favors, first he released you and then gave you the presidency.
(Laughs.) His support has been important, I don't know with how many points he has helped me, but I value and appreciate it. My gratitude is for all Peruvians who risked in a campaign of fear.
Congress member José Vargas just said that Alan García should pardon Alberto Fujimori, we know this can’t be in cases of crimes against humanity, and only in extreme cases of [poor] health. I ask you again: If at some point in the game Fujimori was very ill, will you pardon him?
Yes, I would pardon him on humanitarian grounds. Nobody has to die in prison, except for those with life sentences for abusing minors.
Except Abimael Guzman...
This is a very controversial issue, right? The damage done by Abimael Guzman to Peru is irreparable.
Should [Alberto Fujimori] die in prison?
I'm not the one to say so, I believe in justice. He has no life imprisonment, he has a number of years and must serve his sentence. I will not go into assumptions because it creates uncertainty. It's irrelevant.
In the closing of your campaign you said you wouldn't allow the return of terrorism. Will your government solve the problem of the VRAE?
The interview: Behind the scenes
"Come quickly, perhaps Ollanta will give you the interview." That was the message I received at four in the afternoon on June 8. President-elect Ollanta Humala was receiving members of congress, businessmen and officials in the Hotel Los Delfines and an interview was impossible. I flew out the door. At the hotel, Blanca Rosales, the woman who has been his main advisor when it comes to facing the press, told me he didn't have a lot of time. Visits from the president of congress, the ambassador of Nicaragua, his transfer team, were all scheduled to arrive. In the morning, businessmen were there along with the mayor of Lima, Susana Villarán. The president-elect was to leave for Brazil that same night. "You have only thirty minutes," Blanca said, and I looked at her distressed. Used to talking to politicians for more than an hour, I made decisions in seconds. What should I do? A completely political interview with the man who had to asked for calm after the close of the stock market? Ask for the umpteenth time for his political roadmap? For the promised investments? Choose questions that will reveal the personality of the man who will govern all Peruvians until 2016? I chose the latter path. When I entered the room, I found a man who was absolutely happy. He looked like a child living a dream. Tired but relaxed. "President, thirty minutes is nothing," I said when they cut the conversation relentlessly. Humala smiled and promised more time after July 28, with the official announcements.
(By Milagros Leiva Gálvez)
Yes, yesterday I called the president of the Joint Command (of the Armed Forces) to talk about the issue, more so when I heard about the death of five sergeants. I told him there should always be someone responsible for every death. I will not accept ambushes on members of the armed forces and that no one is found responsible from its planning stages to execution. It's unacceptable. We will pacify them. The Joint Command has a deadline to bring peace. He should tell me when I will go to hoist the national flag in Vizcatán.
You don't mess around...
Things have to be said clearly. They've done enough damage to us to continue to allow deaths. The Joint Command has already been notified. There's political will, they should tell me what their needs are, I will support them and give them means, but I ask for reciprocity. I want results.
How do you want to be remembered?
I want you to ask me that on July 28, 2016. I aspire to fulfill the promises I've made to the country, I know everything is not possible, but we will make every effort to heal Peru’s fractures. In the campaign, racism and classism were shown. The economic powers tried to impose their interests on the ballot, on the will of the people. The fear campaign was fierce. We need to heal all that and the best way is to develop the country, bringing the state inland, to the provinces.
What other transformation are you looking for?
I want to transform education, I'm convinced that the only tool that will lead to development is education. That I will do.
Can you tell me at what moment in the campaign you said, “I beat Keiko Fujimori?”
(Laughs.) On Sunday.
Come on, give me details...
What I lived during the elections were stages. The surveys last year created the illusion that there was already a president. They were already talking about winning in the first round.
Alejandro Toledo said that. Do you think they underestimated you?
Yes, they did. In December, the media and the polls were celebrating the victory of a candidate. In February, the people realize they must elect a president and they read that a candidate has already nearly been chosen, but no one has consulted them. Faced with only one option, the people said “nobody is going to impose a candidate on me.”
Why did Ollanta Humala win?
I won because I connected with the Peruvian people, because I had concrete proposals that didn't change or vary. We were well tuned in. We were consistent, stubborn with the plan for Pensión 65, with the gas issue, with the message of change. We maintained ourselves as the opposition and didn't partake in powers that be. The voice of the people was that change is needed. If you were co-governing with the APRA, what change could you offer?
Humala on the campaign trail, often running through low-income neighborhoods.
Well, the blunders of the other candidates also helped you. Toledo was guilty of arrogance. Castañeda had Comunicore, Keiko the liabilities of her father...
In any competition one has what in military jargon is called General Winter.
What is General Winter?
External conditions that are present; what happens, the opponent's mistakes.
Did they forget that you were a soldier? That you have been trained to fight?
(Laughs.) I think so. It was precisely in the Napoleonic invasion of Russia that the 'general winter' saved Kutuzov's army against Napoleon's army.
And what was your most difficult battle?
Building confidence within my party, among the core members. Although polls put us at 8% and a sector within the party indicated that we were straying from the message of 2006, that we were staying in the center, I kept on going. We had a sector that wanted to radicalize our discourse, but we kept the wheel steady in the storm. The result of the first round was a vote of confidence by the people.
Was it makeup or did you really change your radical discourse?
Who can put makeup over five years? It's not possible. In politics I have learned the hard way, on the street. I studied a Masters in Political Science, but that's theory. The real deal is when you go to the market in Sullana or Puente Piedra and talk with people.
Hugo Chávez heard of your victory and said it was the beginning of a new era, Ortega rubbed his hands, Morales says South America is now red. They've practically said: Ollanta is ours.
I have a mandate of five years and not a minute more, my boss is the people of Peru.
So, let Chávez forget that you are a good soldier?
I'm a soldier of the Peruvian people. The Peruvian people have given me the mandate and I'm even going to propose the right of recall. I don't accept the blank check given to the president, I understand that the Peruvian people are the sovereign.
What's your place within the Latin American political spectrum?
I'm an opportunity to bring together leftist sectors that were never able to govern and that can programmatically unite with business sectors who already work with us, like Mr. Siomi Lerner and other sectors of the center-right, like Peru Possible and Acción Popular and other forces that have converged on this project. Internationally, I'm seen as a man of the left, in Peru I'm seen as a nationalist. I've said I'm not of the left or right, I'm from the bottom, in any case.
Ollanta Humala with wife Nadine Heredia and their three children on the morning of June 5 elections. (Photo: Gana Perú)
Will you and Nadine Heredia begin a new era like that of the Kirchners of Argentina? That is, first you and then Nadine.
(Laughs.) That's going too far. All I ask is for them to confide in me, I will govern for five years and nothing else, I give my word of honor. I will govern for the country, I have no financial commitments.
You don't have commitments with Brazil? Some fear that the Brazilian empire will invade us.
How can you govern a country honestly if you already have commitments? We have no commitments with anyone. Yes, I have interests in getting the Brazilian market for Peruvian businesses.
So, it’s not that the large hydroelectric centers and other companies will be taken by the Brazilians.
No, for me investments have minimum standards that we have put forth, with respect to communities, the environment, taxes they must pay like everyone else, generating employment and technology transfers. That's for everybody, Brazilians, Chileans, Americans...
Foreign Minister Garcia Belaunde said that it would be a mistake to change the negotiating team in The Hague. You said that you'll respect the decision of the court, what will happen with this team?
Just like I told the Peruvian people I don't want a blank check and that they should examine me, I also don't give blank checks. I want to evaluate. I'll call the person responsible for this team, I will see the progress and make a decision. My aim is to improve the defense of Peruvian interests in The Hague and thus will reinforce, replace or ratify the team. What I don't want is prior commitments. I won’t compromise myself with anyone. If they are doing good work, they will be ratified.
Years ago I interviewed President Portillo of Guatemala and asked about his guerrilla past. He had killed two people and wanted to know how that event transformed him. You've been a soldier. Have you ever killed a Peruvian?
Probably. I don’t know. When we were fighting the Shining Path, they carried their wounded and their dead and we took ours. We never abandoned a wounded or dead soldier because we knew what would happen to them if we left them in the hands of these terrorists.
How many friends did you carry off?
Many ... In one of the bases, in 1989 they killed the my base commander... in 1990 again. I went on... I survived...
What came out of all of this?
It brought about much pain ... I'm sorry, but it's very hard to talk about that war, any soldier avoids talking about this. It causes me much pain... I've said it before: I don't feel proud of having fought in the emergency zones and not because I violated human rights but because it was a war between Peruvians. That's what hurts the most.
When voices arise during your government reminding you about Madre Mía, what was the...
That's not the real issue, that is slander. Judge San Martín saw my case and I was acquitted, I cooperated with the law, I never expected (prescriptions) or the like. What hurts me is that Peruvians fought each other with bullets. Some survived, others didn't. And it all happened because we ideologized things in Latin America. That's why I don't want to ideologize regional blocs or anything.
If you manage to reconcile Peru, you may perhaps be considered the best president in our history...
It's my goal. Peru is very divided, there is a historical divide and in the electoral process everything jumped to the surface, you have to heal that, we must reconcile. I will try.
Will you respect journalists who are uncomfortable? Those of us who don't agree with you?
Absolutely, I'll respect you even if you're not with me.
Tell me one last thing. Do you have the name of your first minister?
(Laughs.) Not yet, not yet. I knew you'd ask. All will be announced in due time.
Personally I do not trust this man at all but I truly hope I am wrong. My mother always said: "A good Moor will never be a good Christian", but I will also add: "You can't make a silk purse out of sow's ear". I had a conversation with a Venezuelan who was granted political asylum in this country years ago, and he told me how sorry he felt for the Peruvian people; he mentioned that all the promises made by Humala were almost exactly the same as the ones Chavez made to Venezuelans too many years ago. He added that it took him only five months to show his true colors...
I was not able to vote because where I live there is not Peruvian Consulate. I am very pleased that Ollanta Humala won. I wonder how much you know about the reality of how people who opposed Fujimori lived during the years he was president. My whole family were followed after my dad commented in the media why not to vote for Alberto Fujimori. I would have never voted for Keiko. Please read the following comments from a blog - http://blogs.peru21.pe/peru2punto1/2011/06/bienvenidos-a-la-resistencia.html So a headline in the newspaper El Mundo in Spain a puzzling note how "some sectors of Lima, especially young people, refuse to accept Humala."The article reproduces some of the most infamous phrases that have circulated through social networks following the victory of the candidate Peru Gana.One of the title says: "I hope he destroys Machu Picchu, Cuzco for not having to eat."
On Facebook, the group Verguenza Democratica horror gallery exhibits some of these phrases.We have corrected some spelling to return readable texts:
"I will not help anyone and it did not come with campaigns against the cold or anything ... Puneños shit, die from cold and Ollanta will send them clothes"
"Our 50% keep our taxes 50% who voted for Humala, do not forget"
"They should be two separate elections, a candidate for the provinces where voting entire string of 'border' irrational seeking personal gain regardless of the consequences'
"Steal your ID to your maids not to vote for Humala !!!!!"
"Peru is fucked by the damn mountain, ignorant shit, shit humalientos the '
"All the people who voted for Humala should die. It would be less poverty."
I think I understand.The same happened after the first round, especially among some young people who voted for PPK.At that time the violence lasted for almost two weeks and reached a level that some of the self-styled "PPKausas" Facebook groups organized to give a coup if Humala won, even publishing maps of the house of then-candidate in the middle proclamations clearly discriminatory.
For days the tension grew and the leader of the PPKausas not manifested.Three days later he called to "disagree but respect."He never mentioned the word "discrimination".He lost the opportunity to raise this issue with its thousands of young fans.Back in the second round this week in an interview with Rosa María Palacios, Congressman Daniel Abugattás complained outbursts "forgive the word, racist."Abugattás-voting representative of the discriminated-apologized for talking about racism.Taboo.As if racism does not exist, as if it were more easy to get piece of land, sweep it under the carpet.
What makes Verguenza Democratica is airing one of our deepest problems.While racism in the media seems to be only a matter of clubs or the characters Jorge Benavides, in fact it is something common crudely.In Facebook you have the advantage of being able to give print screen (screenshot) and immortalized forever every racist outburst.But if we could print screen of what the drivers are yelling at the traffic chaos of Lima, it would be very different.Racism is there, to the surface, waiting for the first fit of anger to become a weapon to attack the other.Usually racist expressions in Peru are verbal and therefore ephemeral, without registration (except one or two columnists, no one dares to throw in print mentality discriminatory).
What Facebook seems novel and only scares us because now is no record of the epithets.As with the edges stuck in traffic, social networking is not a process of reflection before the outburst: the distance between the brain and the keyboard is too short.Sale you have to go out and you have to get out is what we strive to sweep under the rug.
Thanks to Facebook, which shows the problem, we can discuss it openly.Who will bell the cat make?Who is going to discuss openly in the media the problem?Who will use the word racism without apology?Who is going to be removed from textbooks racial classifications of the Colony (clubfoot, sacalagua, saltapatrás, paneled, etc.). We are taught as children really like and get use to perpetuate their 400 years later?Again, the root of all education.Let's start there, though.That really would be a "great transformation", President Humala.
Judging is easy.It is clear that we reject the hatred and discrimination.Now, are we willing to give something more?.From this humble page we summon them (go word).We create from our thoughts, not merely stay in the trial, much less to pretend that none of us has ever had an expression of hatred.
For this reason, we want YOU, the reason, he is tired of his chair, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "I signed up I" ...in as soon as possible, we will call all who contact us to create something, we're not talking about a march or a "flashmob" ...but we leave as unknown, please contact us and find out!THANKS !
It is a terrorist really a peruvian? Is Osama Bin Laden a man to respect (even thou he´s deadth)? Are the other members of Al Qaeda nationals to respect or they are enemies of what we protect? What´s your point triying to get that kind of information from the new president. Haven´t George Bush kill any -what was called- "Jap"?, or Kennedy or Teddy Roosvelt any spaniard? Milagros Leiva is pitfully using the short sight approach common to the peruvian press in this question. They have no idea what´s war and do not do any distinctions between friend and foe. In real life there are foes. You can do it better, guys.