Puno seeks to pursue its own development agenda
19 January 2019
Politics in Puno have long tended to sit somewhat uneasily with those of the rest of Peru. With its largely indigenous population and its proximity to Bolivia, puneños feel that their interests have not been well served by successive administrations in Lima. The election of Aymara Walter Aduviri as the new regional governor reflects this frustration and a desire to set a different agenda.
Aduviri was elected last October and officially took up his new functions on 1 January. He was elected with a clear majority that went well beyond simply the votes of Puno’s Aymaran community. He has made it clear that he thinks that Puno should look for inspiration to neighbouring Bolivia, particularly in following its policies of state-guided industrialisation of raw materials.
Aduviri rose to national prominence in 2011 with the so-called ‘aymarazo’, a large protest against the proposed Santa Ana silver mine in the southern province of Chucuito. The Canadian company, Bear Creek, had been awarded the concession to develop Santa Ana by the then government of Alan García. The scale of the protest, occurring at the tail-end of García’s presidency, led his government to cancel the contract with Bear Creek.
Due to his role in leading the protest movement, the judicial authorities sought to jail Aduviri, forcing him into clandestinity. The charges against him have since been dropped.
In a recent interview, Aduviri did not conceal his admiration for the development achieved in Bolivia in recent years. “We talk of the Bolivian economic model with regard to the use of natural resources, because the way they have used their gas has led to where they are now”, he said, “in ten years they have developed while we live continually amid states of emergency and stoppages”. He also talks of his support for a ‘plurinational’ state as one “which recognises us all for what we are without discrimination”.
The world of Lima he sees as far removed from that of the Altiplano. This is a world that he describes as dominated by corruption and lobbying in which business elites live at the expense of marginalised peoples elsewhere in the country.
Aduviri has sought to make common cause with other regional governors in southern Peru, notably those of Arequipa and Moquegua. He has also sought to take the initiative in building ties with neighbours Bolivia and Chile. He has been a keen proponent of a scheme to build the necessary pipeline connections so that Bolivia can sell its gas to households and firms in Puno. The scheme to bring gas from Camisea has encountered major obstacles due to the suspension of construction on the southern Peru pipeline. This was supposed to supply Cuzco, Arequipa and Puno.
Whether or not Aduviri will be able to embark on a coherent regional development strategy remains to be seen. But he certainly has ambitions in that direction. He highlights the need for interventionist policies that seek to harness a pro-indigenous agenda, policies that may well sit uneasily with those emanating from Lima.