Dr Yehude Simon Munaro is the elected President of the Regional Government of Lambayeque, a northern province of Peru, and the founder of a new political party, The Humanist Movement of Peru. From 1985 – 92 Simon was a congressman. An outspoken defender of human rights, he sat on the Congressional Human Rights and Justice Committee. He believed that conflict could be resolved through negotiation with leaders of the Shining Path and the MRTA (Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru) and was accused simultaneously of idealistic naivety and of leading the MRTA, involved in political violence.
In June 1992, after Fujimori staged his auto-golpe, Simon was arrested, charged with collaborating with terrorists and sentenced to 20 years in a high security prison. When Fujimori fell in 2000 and after serving 8 years of his sentence – by which time he had started a library and taught fellow prisoners literature – Simon was released and cleared of all charges.
PSG Meets Dr Yehude Simon
On his recent visit to the UK, Hannah Morley and Sophie Paton (the outgoing and incoming co-ordinators of the PSG) talked to Simon about his views.
He says his party stands for many of the values that civil society movements and NGOs have been fighting for for years, including economic solidarity, participative democracy, environmental conservation and women’s rights. He also says it stands for fighting racism and poverty, two of Peru’s greatest challenges.
Simon’s party advocates decentralisation, he states: “The process of decentralisation cannot fail to bring about development in Peru and the only way to stop the return to violence is through social development”.
Throughout the 1990s Peru was governed by an authoritarian regime, resulting in a dominating, centralised state that weakened democratic institutions. He argues that decentralisation should aim to reform economic, social and political relations within the state and to strengthen local and regional governments.
Simon’s way of presiding his region is strikingly different to other regional presidents. He lives there, he spends almost all of his time there, and only goes to Lima when he absolutely has to. He does not cash-in his salary, and ensures transparency so that he cannot be accused of corruption.
He has initiated small community-based projects in Lambayeque by forming partnerships with neighbouring regional governments. One example is a project to bring electricity to a small community and buy a computer for their school.
He wants decentralisation to achieve greater levels of economic and political participation. He believes that only regional and local governments who know and live in their constituencies can tackle the fight against poverty. He continues to uphold his belief in cooperation attempting to work with all sections of civil society to bring about social development.
This month he announced his intention to hold a referendum on the formation of a ‘macroregion’ consisting of the Amazonas, Cajamarca and his own department.
In June, Simon met with Toledo to impress on him the importance of decentralization and the potential it holds to generate jobs. He stresses the importance of corporate social responsibility and wants companies to sign up to paying workers a fair wage. He says he wants to “transform the mentality of employers so that they have a conscience”.
Simon says he is committed to cooperating with all elements of society in his region, including other political parties, and has initiated several programmes to encourage greater integration within the region. A key objective is to develop the Lambayeque Region’s links with the international community. He believes that cooperation is the root to political and social stability in Peru.