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A massive vaccination and the aftermath of the elections mark the year in Peru

Health workers cross the Camaná river to vaccinate the elderly against COVID-19, in Arequipa, south from Peru. DIEGO RAMOS (AFP)

Peru elected in 2021 a rural teacher and left-wing unionist as president, Pedro Castillo, after elections with artificially lengthened scrutiny by the sector that did not recognize its defeat. The elections were recognized as clean by all electoral missions, but the tension between those who competed at the polls has not ceased since then and will extend to 2022, the specialists consulted agree. A sociologist, a feminist lawyer and a political scientist also highlight the massive vaccination against covid-19 – which reaches 80% of those over 12 years of age – as another fact that marked the Andean country this year.

In June, the Government honestly reported the death toll from covid-19 —to more than 180,000— and Peru became the country with the highest fatality in the world in this disease and also had the highest rate of children orphaned by causes linked to the new coronavirus: one in 100 children lost their parents or caregivers during the pandemic. “The health crisis was felt with great force at least until May 2021 and the honesty of the number of deaths since the pandemic began was terrible news that marked the year,” said economist Edmundo Beteta, former director of the Comprehensive Insurance of Health.

The common pots that emerged especially in Lima in the first year of the pandemic this year formed a metropolitan network made up of 2,000 groups that manage every day to alleviate the hunger of people in poverty, which has reached 30% of the population since 2020. “We have gone back 30 years,” says sociologist Narda Henríquez, who highlights leadership and autonomy of women “in the struggle for subsistence and care”, but recognizes the achievements of the Executive in immunization. “It has been a priority for the Government: in vaccination we have advanced a lot”, indicates the university professor of gender studies.

Director of Immunizations, Gabriela Jiménez, reported that until Friday 31st the Ministry of Health had vaccinated 80% of the population over 12 years of age with two doses. For the executive secretary of the National Human Rights Coordinator, Jennie Dador, the equitable response of the State in vaccination was one of the two outstanding events of 2021. “We are totally discriminatory and unequal, but we have been more equal in vaccination and that. It has been admirable. We found out about the real number of deaths we had, but the ability to respond with a massive and generalized vaccination process has given peace of mind “, comments the feminist lawyer.

According to the political scientist Paula Távara, the vaccination process has been “extremely important to demonstrate that the public service makes sense, that good care can be expected from the State, since it is not a common denominator of many other services in Peru. But also, because it allows questioning the anti-vaccine misinformation that is appearing ”, he indicated.

Dador also highlights the beginning of the judicial investigation of former President Alberto Fujimori and his former ministers for deaths and serious injuries caused by the thousands of forced sterilizations during his second government in the 1990s. “For the first time there is progress after 20 years of preliminary tax investigations, in which those who They denounce are mostly illiterate rural women against those who have all the power ”, he specifies.

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The political watershed

According to Távara, the second factor that marked the year was the electoral process “which ends in the election of President Casti llo and that continues to generate queue ”. The arrival to power of a left-wing rural teacher “makes it impossible to remain blinded by a set of fractures that exist in the country: there was a privileged Lima and regions that demanded representation,” explains the professor at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos .

”Now it is necessary for this electoral achievement to be materialized in policies of redistribution, equity, and improvement of the lives of that citizenry. that he was claiming it and that he's probably on a less patient wait. The bad thing is that this polarized moment in politics has remained, it has been present in the relationship between the Executive and the Legislative, “adds Távara. “That election has been a shakeup that has marked the national agenda because it has been a shift with respect to the political class that was in charge of the country,” describes the political scientist.

For the researcher at the Peruvian Studies Institute (IEP) Jorge Aragón, “the endless electoral process” and the arrival of the left to the government stood out in the year. “Both events have open and questionable outcomes. The reaction of a part of the political forces and of Peruvian society to the triumph of President Castillo has called into question basic principles of democracy such as the alternation in the government of proposals from the right and the left, the acceptance of the electoral results even when the winner is not the preferred one, the legitimacy of any government elected by a majority, and the political struggle within the existing institutional channels ”, maintains Aragón.

Despite this, Dador emphasized the response capacity of the Peruvian democratic institutions when Fujimori tried to annul Castillo's votes in the second round, without evidence of irregularities. “As incredible as it may seem, a system as precarious as ours was able to respond and support this fraud in the name of fraud,” he said.

After five months of the leftist in the government, the balance of the political scientist Aragón is negative. “Behind this government there is neither organization, nor leadership, nor a politically viable plan for the country. A number of their actions repeat corrupt practices and the prevalence of private interests over public interests. The outlook for Peru in 2022 is not good: the irresponsibility of a part of the opposition such as the president and his surroundings will deepen political instability, paralysis of the State and citizen frustration ”, postulates Aragón.

For the economist Beteta, from the perspective of the democratization of politics “it is valuable and remarkable that the country has elected a peasant teacher as president, but Unfortunately, those benefits are being diluted due to the inability of the Executive to form suitable cabinets and give signs of a defined course. ”

The outlook in 2022

According to Beteta, the increase in Inflation —for external causes— and devaluation, adds to the political uncertainty “both due to the mistakes of the Executive and the losers in an electoral process that was clean and legitimate. From the Congress, the losers make strenuous attempts to remove the president ”, he questions. In his analysis, the official growth projections point to a 3.4% increase in GDP for 2022, but “that is modest for the country's needs and expectations regarding public policies to reduce inequalities,” says the economist.

Beteta refers that if the fall in the approval of the president is added to the destabilizing desire of Congress, it could be a “cocktail explosive”. “The president has the task of recovering the image of his government, showing public policies that result in the well-being of citizens, the poorest, and worrying that there is trust in the population and private investment,” he recommends.

The Minister of Economy, Pedro Francke, proposed a tax reform in 2021 and asked Congress for legislative powers, but they were denied in the aspects more important, such as tributes to mining. The sociologist Henríquez estimates that the obstacles from Congress to the Executive will continue in the new year. “There will be some economic recovery, but I wonder about the viability of the government because the right-wing opposition is achieving small privileges, small gifts and hinders what is truly important,” he concludes.

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