Frente Amplio's second congress left key issue unresolved

2 October 2016

The second congress of Frente Amplio (FA), held in Villa El Salvador on 24-25 September, reflected some of the important advances made on the left this year. But the way ahead for the FA looks to be a long and winding one.

Verónika Mendoza, the young leader from Cuzco, was chosen at the beginning of the year as presidential candidate in the FA primaries, themselves an important innovation. As a result of the April elections, Mendoza (who won 18% of the vote) has now become a national figure. The FA won 20 seats in the new Congress, becoming the second largest bloc, a result not seen since 1985.

However, FA’s registration as an electoral organization, however, involved borrowing that of Tierra y Libertad (TyL), one of its main constituent parties. TyL is led by Marco Arana, the eco-socialist from Cajamarca who lost out to Mendoza in the primaries.

As soon as the elections were over, the question immediately arose as to what to do next.

For Mendoza and her supporters, the task ahead was to expand the FA’s base, building on the electoral results that produced about 3 million votes and strengthening her role as ‘the new face’ of the left. Opening the FA to newcomers was therefore seen as critical. Her supporters include some prominent TyL figures like Marisa Glave, Carlos Monge, Pedro Francke and José de Echave, as well as leaders from other groupings.

For Arana and those in TyL who control the party apparatus, the goal was to close ranks and ensure their party and leaders maintained a dominant role. As soon as the elections were over, Arana proceeded to register TyL members as ‘militants’ of FA, as opposed to others who were referred to as ‘activists’. Arana, elected to Congress in April, became the appointed leader of the bancada (the FA benches in Congress) but could count on the loyalty of only eleven of the 20 FA members.

Tensions between Mendoza and Arana, and their two respective strategies, led to the organisation of the second congress. Arana and his group did not participate, arguing the lack “of democratic conditions” to discuss strategy. Mendoza and her supporters, including the Ty L wing that supports her views, along with leaders from other organisations, were there. They support an open organisation in which all (militants, activists or whatever) have the same voting power.

The congress failed to produce a definitive result. The internal debate was friendly, but at times tense. One wing argued in favor of breaking apart to form a new organisation and to register it for the next elections; another preferred to wait until TyL holds its own congress in November, with the idea of then negotiating with Arana to keep the left united. The issue was not resolved. In the end, Mendoza proposed a third congress of the FA for December to settle the matter.

In general, the left, whether or not in the FA, is now in wait-and-see mode. While the same old problems emerged in the congress over how to handle dissent, they were expressed with much less passion and with a greater predisposition to compromise than previously.

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