Mendoza speaks her mind

6 March 2016

Although the presidential campaign of Verónika Mendoza has so far failed to take off in the way that César Acuña’s did in the last couple of months of 2015 or Julio Guzmán achieved in the first couple this year, her popularity ratings are in the ascendant. The latest CPI poll suggests that she was in sixth place (on 4.1%), only 1.3 percentage points behind Alan García. She has spent a good deal of time campaigning outside Lima, and in particular in Amazonas and Cajamarca where she was the first candidate to visit and denounce the major oil spills along the northern Peru pipeline. On 28 February, in an interview in the daily paper Peru 21 with the journalist Mariella Balbi, she shared her thoughts on a number of key campaign issues.

Asked whether she considered Guzmán and Alfredo Barnechea to be on the left, she said “No. Beyond simply questions of form, he [Guzmán] advocates the same economic policy as the government. I agree with Barnechea about the recovery of our gas [ie not exporting it], but unlike him what the Frente Amplio has been saying is neither new nor just for electoral purposes, rather its been what we have been struggling for for years”.

When asked whether she thinks she will get more than just 4% of the vote, she replied “well, yes. I see a great deal of enthusiasm out there in the streets. Our [election] rallies have been massive, very successful”. She went on to say “for us, Peru can no longer continue simply as a provider of raw material and cheap manpower. We have full potential to achieve sustainable development, with productive diversification, with industrialisation. Instead of giving away our gas, we should recover it so that it supplies our homes. We should also create the petrochemical plant that the country is waiting for so as to generate thousands of jobs and to [convert gas] into methane and ethane”.

She was highly critical of the current government’s plans to build a gas pipeline to the south of the country, calling this “absolutely insufficient” and arguing the need to “renegotiate gas contracts” with suppliers in order to give greater investment priority to “supplying Peruvian consumers and [achieving] industrialisation”. She advocated a full investigation into the way in which the contract was awarded to Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant at the centre of the Lave Jato corruption scandal.

She defended herself against charges of being ‘anti-mining’ and having Oscar Mollohuanca [the former mayor of Espinar and a major actor in the conflict with Xstrata over Tintaya] on her list of congressional candidates, arguing that he was “not against mining” and only sought “to ensure that mining companies respect environmental norms”. She went on “we in the Frente Amplio do not oppose mining per se [but that it] must respect environmental rules and prior consultation. From now on, it has to be on terms agreed with [local] people”. When asked about Conga [the big suspended mining project in Cajamarca], she replied that “the point is that we need mining, but in some areas there’s no sense in pushing something which is not going to work”.

On the role of the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones in the present contest and the wrangling over the possible suspension of candidates both for the presidency and Congress, she said “at this stage of the game, it’s critical, it’s pathetic that we do not know who the candidates will be. The JNE is not managing the procedures. There’s a level of informality about political organisations, such is the case of Guzmán”.

When quizzed as to why she is ‘anti-fujimorista’, she replied “because during the government of Fujimori corruption was institutionalised, human rights were violated, women were sterilised. For these reasons, Fujimori is in jail and fujimorismo continues to be a den of corruption. They have people tried and convicted of asset laundering. I see nothing new now...”

For the full interview, go to

Separately, on the stump, Mendoza said that a government of the Frenta Amplio would beef up the powers enjoyed by the Environment Ministry, Minam. So that mining projects do not affect the eco-system, she argued, Minam needs to ensure that specific projects are monitored scrupulously. “We will ensure that there is an environmental authority that concerns itself with the environment so that problems of pollution are avoided which [in turn] affect the health of ordinary people”. She argued that the problem that faced Peru was not so much that of climate change but the failure of government to take steps to avert it. “The problem is not the climate, it’s not the rains, the problem is that of governments that have done nothing to prevent this situation”.

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