Peru’s election spotlights age-old chasm between Lima, interior

By Monica Martinez

Lima, Jun 2 (EFE).- Residents of this capital and people who live in the Peruvian interior have looked on each other with mutual suspicion since colonial times and the gulf seems to be widening ahead of a presidential runoff that could see victory for a hitherto unknown rural schoolteacher from the thinly populated south.

Greater Lima is home to a third of Peru’s 33 million people, an imbalance reflected in “great differences in terms of power,” anthropologist Mirko Solari told Efe.

“When we speak of the antagonism between Lima and the country’s interior, we are also talking about an ethnic antagonism between a white imaginary and a more indigenous imaginary,” the San Marcos University professor said.

Polls show that teacher and union activist Pedro Castillo, running under the banner the leftist Peru Libre party, is likely to prevail next Sunday over rightist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori.

Keiko Fujimori, currently under indictment for money laundering, is the candidate of continuity and enjoys the backing of Lima-based political and economic elites.

But she has struggled to find support in areas of the country where Castillo draws massive crowds despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

During their first debate, held in the main square of Chota, capital of the likenamed northern Andean province where Castillo was born, Fujimori complained more than once about having had “to come here” to face her opponent.

Castillo, the son of illiterate peasants, advocates replacing the constitution enacted by Alberto Fujimori in 1993 with a charter giving the state a larger role in the economy.

He also calls for nationalizing extractive industries and vows to implement a second agrarian reform – the first took place in the 1960s under a leftist military regime – that would benefit small farmers.

Solari pointed out that the dominance of Lima dates back to the 16th century, when the Spanish made it the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru, while the movement that led to independence in 1821 originated from the interior.

“There are three centuries of colonization that establish the basis of this polarity, of this dichotomy between Lima and the interior, which could be called a dichotomy of center and periphery,” he said.

Even after independence, Lima remained the hub of political and economic power and Peru’s progress toward development was measured solely by conditions in the capital.

Beginning in the 1940s, wave after wave of migrants poured into Lima from the provinces in pursuit of a material quality of life that was not available in the rest of the country.

Cajamarca, the region that includes Chota province, and the Amazonian territory of Loreto, have long experienced net outflows of population to Lima and, to a much lesser extent, the southern metropolis of Arequipa, Peru’s second city.

Past efforts aimed at decentralization did not go far enough to foster the creation of macro-regions “that could counteract the power of Lima,” Solari said.

“Fragmentation remains and, moreover, if to that is added a tradition of corruption and patronage, the regional capital comes to be what Lima is,” preserving the existing “chain of power,” the anthropologist said. EFE


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