Mendoza's announcement; a step towards unity on the left?
30 August 2015
The announcement by Veronika Mendoza earlier this month that she intends to run for president is but the first shot in what looks likely to be a fractious battle to see who (if anyone) emerges as the candidate for the left. Mendoza looks likely to face other competitors within the Frente Amplio to which she belongs, not least Marco Arana, the leader of Tierra y Libertad.
Mendoza could well be a good card for the left to play. As well as being a woman, she has an electoral base outside Lima, in Cusco, for which she has been a deputy for the last four years. She is young, bright and telegenic. However, her pre-candidacy announcement has sharpened the ambitions of others who, like her, want to be the candidate of the left.
No sooner than she had announced her candidacy, Mendoza was pounced upon in the right-wing press for a refusal to state that Venezuela had a ‘false’ democracy. Chavismo remains an attractive target for the Peruvian right, as Alan García discovered to his advantage when combating Ollanta Humala in the 2006 elections.
Arana has a long track record, based largely on his strident opposition to the activities of Yanacocha in Cajamarca, Conga in particular. Grufides, the organisation he helped found and direct, has been a prime mover in the various campaigns against Yanacocha, Latin America’s largest gold producer which is majority owned by Newmont Mining of the United States. In the process, he has made himself a bête noire of the mining industry and right-wing media organisations.
Even when the Frente Amplio decides in October who its candidate will be, it is far from clear whether this will lead to a unified campaign around a single left-wing contender. Like Tierra y Libertad, the Partido Humanista of Yehude Simón has the distinct advantage of already enjoying official registration as a political party. Simón has threatened to withdraw his candidacy, but this could be just part of an attempt to shore up his leadership of Unéte, a heterogenous grouping that includes the Partido Humanista as well as the centre-left Ciudadanos por el Cambio and the former Chinese-line Communist Party, Patria Roja.
The quest for a single left-wing candidacy thus has to overcome both leadership ambitions of various individuals as well as profound distrust among the various parties and factions into which the Peruvian left has long been divided. However, it is clear to all concerned that a divided electoral campaign is not to the interest of any party or leader, particularly those who might aspire to a seat in the next Congress. But the self-destructive instinct is strongly imbued into the Peruvian left.