Verónika Mendoza, Leader Of The Peruvian Left: "The Castillo Government Has Renounced The Change"

The Peruvian Government advances with the proposal of a new Constitution. In the midst of a political crisis, Pedro Castillo moved a piece this Monday by sending Congress a draft constitutional reform to replace the one approved in 1993 by Alberto Fujimori. “The current rules of the game do not give more”, Veronika Mendoza tells elDiario.es, the day before the announcement.

The leader of the left-wing movement New Peru, twice a candidate for president of her country, in 2016 and 2021, thinks that it is necessary to design new constitutional rules but does not believe that the Government or Congress are capable of leading that process. “It is essential to set up a political and social front that raises the debate, proposes it to the Government and in Congress.”

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Is there room for a new Constitution in Peru?

I think it is inescapable. The crisis in Peru – which is serious, deep and multiple – confirms the urgent need for this change in the rules of the game. This is a demand promoted by broad sectors of the citizenry and that we have also proposed in the last electoral campaign. We need a referendum to consult the citizens if they want a new Constitution. The current rules of the game do not give more.

When you say that new rules are needed, do you mean changing the ability of Congress to end presidential terms?

The one you just mentioned is certainly a central theme. From all political spectrums it is recognized that we need new rules of the game. There is consensus on the need to design a new political-electoral system that guarantees representation of all sectors. But, on the other hand, it is essential that rights that are not recognized in the 1993 Constitution be recognized and guaranteed, such as the right to housing, access to the Internet, the right of indigenous peoples to their territory, the right to generate a new development model friendly to nature. But we also need -and perhaps there is not so much consensus here- to give the State a new role to lead national development, capable of participating more actively in the economy.

Do you think it is possible that a government as weak as Castillo’s could carry out a constituent process?

I would not trust either the Government or Congress to conduct such an important process, which aims to build a new social pact between Peruvians and Peruvians, which defines new rules of the game and new values.

If it is not the president or Congress, what do you think should be the mechanism to carry out this process?

It has to be in the hands of the citizens. It is fundamental to constitute a political and social front that proposes it to the Government and in Congress. We also have to discuss under what rules of the game the constituents would be elected, who would write this new Constitution, so that this future Constituent Assembly is truly representative of all sectors of the country and, in particular, of those who never had a voice in the processes previous.

Are there initiatives in this direction?

There are various initiatives from different social, trade union and political organizations that have been articulated around this debate. But we need to multiply the spaces for dialogue and build a much broader articulation for something as important as the construction of a new social pact for all Peruvians.

The successful example of building a constituent process from society is the Chilean case. In Peru, with the exception of the period immediately after the removal of Martín Vizcarra, there does not seem to be a mobilized society demanding this. Is it so?

It is true, in Peru we have a fragmented and weakened society as a result of neoliberal policies, the internal armed conflict, the persecution and criminalization of social, union and leftist leaders. Therefore, we have a difficult starting point compared to other countries where there is a much more developed culture of social mobilization. However, these last few days in Peru have been marked by demonstrations in various regions of the country. The challenge is to articulate it, listen to all the voices and integrate them into a project for a new Constitution, which is also a project for the country.

The Prime Minister of Peru, Aníbal Torres, denounced on Friday a coup plan

against Pedro Castillo. What do you think of these statements?

On the one hand, in Peru we have a right-wing and ultra-right opposition that since the beginning of President Castillo’s government have sought to remove him from office, not as a response to his management but as a denial of the popular will. On the other hand, we also have a government that has renounced the proposals for change for which he was elected, to which it has also added ineptitude and chaos. So there is a kind of permanent feedback of inability and disconnection with the demands of the people from the Government and Congress that are plunging us into a very complicated situation.

How would you define the crisis that the Government is going through?

We cannot lose sight of the fact that this is not a crisis that began with the government of President Castillo. It is a much deeper and lasting crisis, the epilogue result of these 200 years of an exclusive republic, 30 years of predatory neoliberalism, which has worsened and been revealed in a very crude way with the corruption scandals that have broken out in recent years. Isn’t it symptomatic that all our former presidents elected in a democracy today are prosecuted for corruption? So, these rules of the game, this system, do not give more. That is why, without a doubt, it is urgent to open a constituent debate.

Is there room for a leftist change agenda in Peru?

The need for change is fully in force. In fact, the depth and gravity of the crisis confirms this. But these changes, it is clear to me, are not going to come now or from the government, much less from Congress, they are going to come from the mobilized citizenry. The emergency plan, of reforms and the Constituent proposal have to come from a great political, social and citizen front that pressures, proposes and demands that the Government and Congress carry it out.

Does Pedro Castillo represent the left?

This could have been a government of change. That is why a majority of Peruvians voted for Pedro Castillo, but unfortunately the president has progressively abandoned these proposals and today we have a continuing government. President Castillo, instead of making a pact with the people who demanded changes, has preferred to make arrangements with factions in Congress that assure him votes for his survival.

At the time of Vizcarra’s removal, Peruvians took to the streets to ask for a new Constitution. Do you think Castillo’s victory quelled that discontent?

No, clearly the electoral process was not resolved, the crisis exists. And clearly a new general election, as some argue, would not do it either. I think that even those who proposed it have already become aware of it.

Can new elections solve the problem?

Even those who argue that the way out of this crisis would be an early election, have ended up recognizing that with these same rules of the game, new elections will not solve anything at all but, on the contrary, could aggravate the situation.

Why do you think your candidacy got third place in 2016 with 18.7% and in 2021 it finished with 7.8%?

There are multiple reasons. One of them is that, despite the fact that we tried to differentiate ourselves from the 2016 elections, the people demanded something different, they demanded a break with all the political representation that they had seen up to that moment. In that sense, the candidacy of Pedro Castillo represented that novelty, the irruption in politics. We also couldn’t help but get pigeonholed into a hyper-programmatic debate at a time when people were most susceptible to emotional connection.

Do you think that Pedro Castillo positioned himself as a closer leader?

We may have fallen into a very rational logic, we were concerned with responding to the crisis, with finding proposals, solutions and we lost sight of the need for this direct connection with the people. But there are multiple factors, it is certainly up to us as a democratic left to make a self-criticism and learn from this process with more force, with work in the territory, with the people, with the movements, with the social organizations and above all with greater audacity to cope with these challenging times.

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