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Agriculture and Family Farmers

After settling down in the Posada Amazonas ecolodge, we visited the Ñape Ethnobotanical and Medicinal Garden in El Centro Ñape located within the local community of Infierno. In this protected area, there are a variety of plants, such as cordoncillo, chacruna, and sanipanga. These plants have been used by the local people for a long time as medicines, dyes, and spices. In the community, it is believed that these plants can help to cure all kinds of ailments from stomach aches to cancer.
Another community use of the land is farming, mostly tropical fruit trees. Our group visited one of these local farms. During our visit, Rodolfo, one of our experienced guides and member of the community, drew a vivid map on the ground to show the territory and layout of the area, including the large medicinal garden, the farm concessions, and other parts of the community land along the Tambopata River. 

Rodolfo told us that the community has hundreds of farms. Of the 600 community members, over half of them are subsistence farmers. Original farmers in the community received thirty acres of land each, and the share decreased to fifteen acres for the new generation because of the increased population size. In fact, according to Peru’s Family Farming National Strategy 2015-2021, family farmers represent over 80% of the more than 2 million agricultural units in Peru. Also, more than 3 million (83%) of the 3.8 million agricultural workers work in this sector. Family farmers are typically small producers who live in extreme poverty, accounting for 90% of total agricultural units. Coastal areas are generally more developed in agriculture and have better irrigation systems that enhance productivity. However, in the Amazon, farmers continue to use traditional methods of swidden (slash and burn) agriculture. Over half of the population in Peru live in poverty, and most of them are unsurprisingly in underdeveloped rural areas. As a result, farmers are not equipped with modernized agricultural knowledge and skills. Instead of improving productivity through cooperation, local farmers often compete with each other in the market and receive an extremely low price for their crops. As shown in the research by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO), soil preparation is mostly manual and minimal, very seldom mechanical, and no fertilizers are applied in general. 

While exploring the farm, our other guide, Luis, showed us various fruits and talked about main agricultural products such as cacao beans, nuts, and sugarcane. According to FAO, even though family farmers constitute much of the poor population and are vulnerable to food insecurity, they generate about 80% of foodstuffs in Peru, not only in quantity but also in quality, providing a variety of foods with nutritional value. However, because of a monotonous diet, 51.7% of rural children under three years of age suffer from anemia, which is an underserved issue in the country.

The Madre de Dios region depends heavily on natural products and raw materials for its economy, but development in agriculture is threatened by other large industries in the region: logging and gold mining. When I asked Rodolfo whether most young people still stay in the community and work on farms or move to work in larger cities, he responded that most of them still choose to stay with their families. Since they might not have access to better education and they want to make money quickly, gold mining becomes a convenient choice for them to make some quick money in the local area. 

I would not be surprised to see more young people in the community leaving to go to the cities in the future. Although most of them might not be receiving higher education at the moment, the new generation is exposed to a totally different environment featured by urbanization and globalization. The internet and other modern technologies could dramatically change their lifestyle. It might take some time and a lot of effort for the new generation to figure out where they want to go in the future and how to best utilize their land, but it is definitely a good start to be able to learn more about the world and options that are available beyond the jungle. 

– Jie Ren

Barranco, Lima

20120405-015846.jpgPhoto: Hilde

Parting Words from the Street

Our trip would not be complete without including some perspective from the locals! The word on the street literally came from the various taxi drivers we encountered during our time in Lima. One of the topics we chose to explore was the local opinion of “Peru’s progress.” Our first driver made the profound comment that we need to consider what is meant by “progress.” In his eyes, yes, Peru has succeeded in increasing foreign investment, so in that sense, a booming economy has helped elevate Peru’s level of progress. But, in his eyes, if we looked around at the Peruvian people, there are still very poor children who are hungry, without education, impoverished living alongside this economic boom. Peru, therefore, cannot be seen as progressing when it clearly lacks social equality, local development and distribution of basic human rights.

This theme of “quasi-progress” rang true with the second driver we encountered. His comments centered around President Humala’s administration, which campaigned around this notion of change and social justice. The locals believe that their president does not want to rock the boat and make sweeping changes that address this “development” dichotomy and lack of resource distribution. According to our driver, Humala had the right idea (perhaps for the right votes) but the everyday citizens feel one reason for the lack of action could be that reforms to help the poor are challenging, redistributing resources is a tall order and, thus far, the locals don’t believe such sweeping change will be coming any time soon under this administration.

The last driver was eager to point out the various touristic attractions and different neighborhoods while we were en route to the Plaza de Armas at Lima’s city center. Seemingly interested in interacting with his customers, he willingly shared with us that Lima (and Peru generally) has seen an influx of visitors, mainly Western tourists who come to spend a lot of money to visit such historic, cultural sites like Cuzco and Machu Picchu. He remarked, however, that the very people of Peru, those communities right next door to such internationally renowned sites, cannot even visit Machu Picchu because it is just so very expensive for the Peruvians. He was adamant about explaining how Peruvians themselves do not visit these sites, he never has and didn’t allude to any plans to in the near future. He ended by saying it is a shame to be unable to visit places so important to one’s past, one’s history and culture.

These comments all seemed to feed into one another, and echo the main tenets of this course. Susana Baca and others stressed the lack of cultural identity, awareness or understanding by the Peruvian people (including the Peruvian government). Having the opportunity to visit culturally rich sites and learn first-hand about the past might help unite a modern civilization in its path forward. And yet, without such opportunities, without a united appreciation for Peru’s diverse roots and the turbulent past that shapes the hopes and fears of today, how can citizens take active participation to challenge (or work to strengthen) the institutions that are not doing more to serve collective development of the nation? As we heard from our various speakers, the opportunities for change in Peru lie in the hands of the people. Peruvians are faced with the challenge to unite and define a Peruvian citizenship that learns from the past and formulates creative responses to the institutional inefficiencies they face today. Such strategies for success could only be strengthened by continuous exchange – like this study abroad course – where visitors can take away a better understanding of the social, cultural and natural landscape of Peru and hopefully do our part to strengthen the image of Peru and its host of possibilities.

Economics, Conservation, Human Rights, & the Sexy Tissue Dance

3/23 Megan’s entry

Today was the last official day of the course and it was quite busy! We had three meetings throughout the day and our farewell banquet at night. The day was filled with valuable information regarding the Peruvian economy, conservation efforts in the Madre de Dios Amazon region, and the importance of understanding and developing human rights awareness in Peru.

Fernando Villaran

Our first meeting was with Fernando Villaran at his consulting firm SASE in Lima. As former Minister of Labor, Villaran is very knowledgeable about Peru’s informal economy and what needs to be done to make the economy less dependent on unsustainable resource extractive industries.

Villaran named three major problems in the Peruvian economy that impede its development. First, Villaran claimed that drug trafficking has been the biggest problem because that’s a $20 billion business that is not included in the Peruvian formal economy. This ties in with the economy’s second dilemma: the informal economy. There are a few theories as to why there is such a large informal economy in Peru. One theory explains that formality is too expensive and there are too many regulations so there is less incentive to be formal. Another approach to explaining the informality is claiming that it derives from a structural problem. This viewpoint explains that because there is low demand for labor in the formal sector, it hires few people though many are willing to work; thus, people left unemployed seek employment in the informal sector of the economy. The third main problem Villaran pointed out is corruption in the government. Often times government officials are bought out by people operating in the informal economy; this leaves the government weak and vulnerable to manipulation.

Despite all the challenges the Peruvian economy currently faces, the economy has made substantial growth. Villaran explained how Fujimori’s implementation of Washington Consensus policies in the 1990s provided order, promoted economic efficiency, and opened the economy to the rest of the world. These policies yielded good macroeconomic results and significantly reduced poverty in the nation, but according to Villaran that was not enough because informality and social tension were, and continue to be, major problems resulting from ‘Fujishock’.

Villaran argued that the economy is in need of making improvements. He emphasized the need to change the structure of exports, which has relied heavily on exporting natural resources. Villaran recognized this industry as vital to Peru’s economic growth but he thinks that Peru exports too much, extracting unsustainable amounts of natural resources and creating a reliance on this controversial industry. In the past ten years Peru’s mining industry has received $14 billion in investments, especially from foreign companies and countries, and is expected to receive an additional $37 billion in the next ten years. Big firms and big investments indicate a trickle down economy, but Villaran insists that there is opportunity for the mining sector to become bottom up.

There is a lot happening from below, according to Villaran. Microfinance, in hand with microenterprises, has been growing more than big banks. Also, linkage programs link small enterprises with large ones (especially in agriculture), creating an umbrella of large enterprises to help with technology and other needs; these efforts have helped to make at least 3,000 small enterprises formal so far, decreasing the informal sector. There has also been growth in smaller regions of Peru, such as Gamarra and Region San Martin. In Gamarra there has been growth of small enterprises that make a very competitive cluster that contributes greatly to GDP growth. Region San Martin has grown the most in the past ten years; according to Villaran it has grown more than neighboring mining regions. Region San Martin has hugely reduced poverty through agriculture cooperatives that provide incentive for the alternative development of legal production (not coca).

Villaran also highlighted the growth of the gastronomic sector of the Peruvian economy, indicating bottom-up growth. The growth of hotels and restaurants, flourishing franchises, and hungry tourists traveling to partake in delicious Peruvian cuisine are all good indicators of the potential of this economic sector. It is estimated that about 5 million people benefit from the gastronomy sector and Villaran suggested that with more development, this sector could become a better option than mining or at least provide better balance.

Villaran closed his presentation by offering a solution for the Peruvian economy. He wants to see the state develop a bottom-up economic strategy, incorporating formalized small enterprises. He also emphasized the need for strong government to support this strategy. Villaran was very knowledgeable about the Peruvian economy and provided helpful insight as to what he saw as the solutions to Peru’s dilemma of economic growth.

Javier F. Gordillo Jordan

Next we met with Javier Gordillo Jordan, who served as the Peru Coordinator for the ‘Amazon Exchange: Learning Host to Host’ project, funded by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund in 2002–2003. He was also Posada Amazonas’ Community Projects Coordinator from 2004 to 2007. Javier’s knowledge of the Madre de Dios region and the need for conservation was very valuable to us students.

The Madre de Dios region was created by decree in 1912 and is referred to as the biodiversity capital of Peru. Though it is the least populated region of Peru, with a population of approximately 110,000 people, the area has seen many booms from rubber, wood, and gold industries. In the 1960s and 1970s the government offered incentives for people to ‘conquer the jungle’. The government would give land and cows to settlers, and in the 1980s it began offering tax incentives for those who sought to settle in the Madre de Dios region, including no sales tax for the region (unlike the rest of Peru). The main activity in the region is mining, accounting for roughly 9.4% of Peru’s gold production. This mining, though profitable, is very destructive to the rainforest and river.

Gold mining in Madre de Dios is highly informal with more than 15,000 people involved. So many people are able to extract gold informally, evade taxes, and not adhere to environmental standards because there is virtually no government presence in mining towns and areas; the government is too weak to put pressure on these miners or effectively enforce the laws. This past February 2012, the Peruvian government passed a series of mining decrees. The first, DC1100, is an interdiction of illegal mining activities that also forbids the use of damaging suction equipment and establishes an ambiguous fund for environmental remediation. The second decree, DC1101, deals with the supervision of mining activities (i.e. who is responsible, fines, etc). DC1102, the third decree, establishes a prison sentence for those participating in illegal mining. The prison term averages between four and ten years and extends to those who promote, finance, or supply illegal mining. The last decree, DC1103, sets up a system for supervision of supplies, including detention of supplies and vehicles (which should use GPS so that vehicle whereabouts are known in order to prevent people wandering off to informal/illegal mining sites). These decrees have sparked protest among the miners of the Madre de Dios region, especially seen in Puerto Maldonado these past few weeks.

While mining is definitely a big threat to conservation in Madre de Dios, it is not alone in posing a challenge. The recently completed Interoceanic Highway runs through the Madre de Dios region, which reduces travel time and cost, secures procurement of food and other goods, and creates the potential for more exports; however, the highway also results in increased immigration, illegal mining, and deforestation. In addition to the Interoceanic Highway, plans to build a large hydroelectric dam further challenge conservations efforts in Madre de Dios. The Inambari Dam would cause flooding both on the highway and in the national park buffer zone, causing extensive damage that would require large sums of money to repair. In addition to monetary concerns, the dam threatens to yield a loss of biodiversity as it endangers migrant fish and would cause CO2 emissions to rise 6% annually in Peru.

Overall, these changes provide several opportunities and challenges for the Madre de Dios region. Some potential benefits are increases in ecotourism, more money for conservation and development, increased presence in national dialogue, and market opportunity for exotic, fair traded, socially responsible products. Nevertheless, the formalization of mining and land pose as great challenges to overcome. Also, there are needs to improve education quality, health service and access, and regional government capacities.

Lunch time!

Everyone was very excited when we were able to grab lunch between meetings. Javier insisted that we try ‘Bembos,’ the Peruvian version of McDonald’s. The menu featured burgers, chicken sandwiches, french fries, onion rings, hotdogs, salads, and ice cream. We ravenously consumed our food (which was delicious, by the way!) and then proceeded to our final meeting.

Salomon Lerner Febres

At four in the afternoon we met with Salomon Lerner Febres, ex-president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Peru and current president of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Peru. He first gave us some information about the war with the Shining Path, which helped put the need for human rights awareness in Peru into perspective for us.

A brief history of the internal struggle with the Shining Path is necessary to understand the need for human rights awareness within Peru. In 1980, Peru was coming out of a military dictatorship and returning to civilian rule with the re-election of Fernando Belaunde as president. At the same time the Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso, guerrillas began an armed struggle. This Peruvian communist party, founded by Abimael Guzman, was inspired by the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist line of thought; the enemies of the Shining Path included the Peruvian government as well as other communist parties (that followed Deng Xiaoping thought) in Peru. Guzman viewed politics as war and had no appreciation for human life, according to Salomon; Guzman did not care how many people had to die in order to liberate the country and install a system of pure communism.

Once Guzman had built a base among university students that adopted his ideology, he felt that the Shining Path was ready to initiate an armed fight. The group started punishing local thieves and adulterers so that it appeared that the members brought justice to the villages in the highlands. Soon after, the group started killing local authorities, replacing them with their own people. While at first it appeared to villagers that the Shining Path brought hope, it soon occurred to them that the group came to dominate the people and force them to behave certain ways. People who would not listen were flagged as traitors and were publically humiliated, beaten, or killed. If the groups could not overtake a community, they would massacre the village at large.

The situation was bad in the highlands but the people in the city were not very concerned and the president did not trust the armed forces. Instead, the president sent policemen to fight the Shining Path, but they behaved cruelly and were overthrown. Salomon said that when the situation escalated even further and the police had failed, the president gave the army control of the situation and looked the other way. The military had the mindset of getting the job done regardless of how many innocent people had to die (“collateral damage”) and behaved similarly to terrorists as it went into villages and killed all who resided there. The army was prepared for external war, not the internal conflict with the Shining Path. During this time, many fled to the mountains or the city to avoid the violence of both the Shining Path and the army.

Many cases of human rights violations, crimes, massacres, torture, rape, and disappearances prompted the peasants to start self-defense committees. Soon, the military changed its strategy to work alongside the peasants to drive the Shining Path out of the highlands. As the Shining Path made its way to Lima, it invoked urban terror; the people of the city were particularly terrified because they thought this meant the Shining Path had conquered the highlands and countryside and had only the city left. Fortunately, this was not true as the Shining Path was defeated in the highlands.

An organized intelligence group recognized that to defeat the Shining Path they had to capture their leader; they researched and managed to locate and capture Guzman in 1992 (during the time of Fujimori). Villeran explained how Fujimori claimed victory in the war against the terrorism of the Shining Path and established laws that provided incentive for the terrorists to tell of other members of the Shining Path; the one who gave information would be forgiven and receive lesser punishment. However, this led to many unjust incarcerations and pardoning of human rights abuses; Fujimori used these laws to his benefit and “won” yet a third election which he resigned from and returned to Japan with all of his things and a lot of money (Salomon was very upset with the corruption of Fujimori and his advisors).

The capture of Shining Path leader Guzman caused the party to fall apart; some wanted to continue the war and some wanted a treaty. Nevertheless, the war with the Shining Path was over at large. During the transition government, there was a new interest in human rights and the creation of the Commission of the Truth was initiated in 2001. They elected seven Peruvians with fit backgrounds as members of the commission; their task was to find out the truth of what happened during the twenty year internal conflict, including the causes, consequences, and reparations to be made. The title was changed to the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation upon ratification and five more members were added; Salomon Lerner Febres was appointed president.

For two years the commission worked, organizing public audiences so the victims could give their testimonies for the country to hear; it collected about 17,000 testimonies and compiled a large database. In August 2003 the commission finished and submitted its report to the authorities. The number of people killed was double what all had initially thought; in fact, about 70,000 people were reported dead or missing. The commission identified the Shining Path as the cause of the problem as it had initiated this genocide. The commission’s duty to report the truth put it in a precarious situation as it also had to present the human rights violations committed by the state. For some time, the state had fought terror with terror, torturing and killing people. Also, the commission found Fujimori to be criminally at fault.

The commission was also tasked with compiling a list of recommendations to the state. One recommendation was for 47 penal cases to be researched by the public ministry (since this conflict forced Peru to add new crimes to the legal code, like torture). Another recommendation was to reform education to be more reflexive and promote citizenship so that this event would not be forgotten and future conflicts can be prevented. Other recommendations called for justice for all in the country; security and inner order, meaning the state cannot kill its own people and the military would only be used for external conflict (police for internal); the presence of a honest and democratic state in all its territory; and material and moral reparations for victims.

Salomon viewed the reconciliation process as a way of moving toward a new way of living where the state assumed the full responsibility of taking care of its citizens. He thinks the moral and open truth should not be forgotten; it would be a great disappointment if the truth was lost and something similar happened in the future. Salomon has also been disappointed as the recommendations of the commission have not been followed and that there seems to be an attempt to forget those twenty years as the events are not even mentioned in school textbooks. He spoke of how there exists a discourse of equality and inclusion, but it has not become a reality. Nevertheless, there seems to be a current effort of building a memory, and the term ‘social inclusion’ gives Salomon hope. He believes that there can be no real advance without the reform of education, which is currently discriminative and of poor quality. The Ministry of Social Inclusion is only part of the solution for Salomon; he thinks the participation of all the ministries is necessary to make significant change. Salomon spoke of the threats that military members and lingering Shining Path members have thrown at him; someone even went so far as to kill his two dogs, sending the message that he would also die like a dog. It is incredibly upsetting to me that a man who dedicated so much of his time to finding the truth in order to bring justice to Peruvians has to deal with such demoralizing acts against him, but I guess that is a reality of someone who has to present on such a vicious history. He closed by saying that his experience serving on the commission and hearing the moving testimonies of so many victims changed his life and his view of the world.

We thanked Salomon for his time and valuable insight as we were presented with books and souvenirs, which was incredibly kind of the Institute. This experience was incredibly eye-opening as we learned about the reality of the conflict, the findings of the commission, and what has been done to make reparations and instill a memory of the tragedies that occurred.

Festivities!

We had about an hour between our last meeting and dinner. We made our way over to Don Porfirio’s, a restaurant with amazing food, drinks, and entertainment. Once the Afro-Peruvian band started playing, people filled the place and crowded the dance floor. The music was awesome and watching the Peruvians move their hips to the beat was mesmerizing. Every once in a while a couple in costume would come out and perform special dances for everyone’s entertainment. The Peruvian men and women would take turns dancing what we referred to as “the sexy tissue dance” where the man and woman would dance around each other all the while seductively twirling a white handkerchief around; it was very romantic. Most of us seized the opportunity to dance throughout the night. Colin was particularly excited to show off his dance moves, especially as he participated in dancing around with a napkin tucked in to the back of his pants while a woman tried to light the napkin on fire; fortunately for Colin, she did not succeed. The night was a wonderful experience and was such a wonderful way for us to become immersed in Peruvian culture.

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Antonio Brack Egg

20120326-205958.jpgPhoto: Hilde

Salomon Lerner at the Center for Democracy and Human Rights

20120324-093328.jpgPhoto: Hilde

Social Inclusion, Social Unrest, and the Informal Economy

March 21

Christina Lyerly

Our first day of meetings in Lima represented the diversity of issues and challenges faced by the people of Peru.  The day began with meeting Ms. Susana Baca, a Grammy-award winning Afro-Peruvian singer and the former Minister of Culture of Peru in the administration of President Ollanta Humala. The day ended with meeting Richard Webb—current Director of the Instituto del Perú at Universidad de San Martin de Porres and former Head of the Central Bank of Peru—and Miguel Santillana, a Principal Investigator at the Instituto del Perú as well as an expert in environmental economics and policy. Our day began with issues of marginalization and ended with the informal economy and problems associated with social unrest.

Afro-Peruvians represent a small percentage of Peru’s population, and have historically been marginalized. Ms. Baca’s appointment as Minister of Culture was a significant accomplishment for a traditionally underrepresented group.  According to Ms. Baca, President Humala said he appointed her because she symbolized inclusion.  She is an internationally recognized musician and seen as a role model of success.  Past egregious government actions and incompetency that led to conflict and death—including the conflict in Bagua—spurred the new administration to pull ministers from the central left and to project an image of change.  Ms. Baca was seen as a symbol of transformation that was sorely needed.  Despite these seemingly good intentions by the new presidential administration, the Ministry of Culture did not receive the support that it needed and a policy of social marginalization continued within the government.

As Minister of Culture, Ms. Baca faced several challenges.  First, the infrastructure of the ancestral ruins was in desperate need of maintenance. Second, life culture expressed in the arts was not given enough attention as so much economic importance was placed on industry.  Third, material patrimony was being degraded.  Traditional knowledge, arts and song were being lost, and the Ministry of Culture set out to catalogue this knowledge before it was lost forever. The Ministry faced several obstacles in addressing these challenges.  There was a lack of sensitivity to culture within the state.  Additionally, the appropriated budget was very small.  Ms. Baca expressed her discouragement during this time.  Afro-Peruvians and other marginalized peoples were a great influence in the creation of Peru, yet they are not recognized. Racism is a major factor in the lack of cultural recognition and the silencing of voices.  Unlike the United States, there was never a formalized law that legally segregated the populations within Peru.  However, the populations were segregated anyway, and different rights were awarded different peoples. Only five months after her appointment, Ms. Baca resigned as Minister of Culture of Peru.

Ms. Baca has tried to incorporate ancestral music and values into her music.  She said that sometimes she feels sad that culture is being lost. Young people feel that culture is only for old people.  Ms. Baca tries to interpret and reinterpret traditional song in the hope that more people will love it, and therefore, it will continue to live on.

Ms. Baca is gracious and open.  Meeting with her and her partner Ricardo at their home was a special experience.  Ms. Baca has provided us with a personal reference that we will always appreciate as we contemplate human rights and marginalization in Peru.

Later that afternoon, the topic of discussion shifted to the economy as we met with Dr.’s Webb and Santillana.  Before moving into specifics of our conversations, it will be helpful to relay the speakers’ distinction between the “informal” economy and the “illegal” economy.  A large part of Peru’s economy is “informal”—activities that do not have all of the formal permissions from local and regional authorities.  If the company in question did go through the bureaucratic process to obtain these permissions, the activity would be permissible.  On the contrary, illegal economic activities are those that are not eligible for any permissions because the activities are against the law.  A good example given to explain the difference is that of mining considered informal and illegal.  In Madre de Dios, a mining corridor was delineated, within which mining is allowed and out of which mining is banned.  There are mining operations within the corridor that have not completed the required paperwork to obtain the needed permits.  This mining is an informal economic activity.  If it had applied for the permits, it would be permissible.  There are mining companies who are mining outside of the corridor.  No permits would make this mining permissible.  It is illegal under all circumstances, and therefore different from an informal economic activity.  The line between informal and illegal seems to be fine.  As one student remarked, both would be considered illegal in the United States. Informal and illegal economic activities are included in the calculation of Peru’s GDP.  Dr. Webb admitted that this is a difficult endeavor because these activities are outside of the normal economic infrastructure.

Dr. Webb was kind enough to stop in and take a few questions in between his meetings. Three points that Dr. Webb made stood out to me.  First is the current president’s switch in a major political position during his candidacy based on the potential impact it could have on his election.  During the first campaign, then-candidate Humala proposed a change in Peru’s constitution that would give the government a bigger role in the economy. But he realized that the majority of voters do not support this change, and subsequently dropped the proposal during the second election.  Dr. Webb indicated that President Humala probably wouldn’t have been elected if he had not made this move to the center.  I view this switch as a very substantial change in policy position.  Witnessing this drastic a shift is a reminder that outside pressures are significant obstacles to progress.

The second statement that I found interesting was that if it weren’t for the extensive environmental damage caused by illegal mining, it would be just another “informal” economic activity.  The massive destruction elevates it to a greater problem.  In my mind, this introduces another dimension to the distinction between informal and illegal.  If an illegal activity does not inflict a “serious” degree of damage, is it really more informal than illegal?  Which brings me to another question.  How important is the distinction between informal and illegal?  There is a reason that an activity is informal and not within the mainstream legitimized economy.  Does the label of informal versus illegal represent levels of negative impacts?

The last statement was Dr. Webb’s estimation that only 5% of Peru’s land is arable and therefore farmable.  Agriculture cannot be a driver of Peru’s economy due to its limitations. Eighty percent of the food that Peruvians consume is imported.  Peru could not actually produce enough food to sustain itself. I formed the impression—which could of course be mistaken—that the lack of agricultural potential was being used as a justification to delegate resource extraction as a central economic driver for Peru.  I see the limitations of agriculture, but I hope that there is a better solution than relying on a finite and environmentally destructive industry.  Basing an economy on something that will run out—even if it may not happen in the immediate future—is not a long-term solution.  Additionally, resource extraction and exploitation brings many more problems than just the environment effects.  Conflicts over benefits, disparities in wealth, and the deterioration of public health are factors that are important to consider as well.

Dr. Santillana’s discussion touched more on issues of social unrest.  Former President Alberto Fujimori opened Peru up to foreign investment in the 1990s.  Concessions were given to foreign mining companies, but the peasants were not informed of their rights, or what obligations and limits the mining companies must follow.  Additionally, peasants may own the rights to their lands, but not the rights to the earth under their lands, which can be given to mining companies for extraction without the peasant’s consent.  These abuses have led to conflicts.  The environment is also experiencing a clash of visions.  The traditional Andean vision is that of helping each other.  The community members think of the well being of the group over the individual.  However, when the space is opened up to private investors, such as mining companies, a contradictory vision becomes apparent.  Private investors are interested in individualism and personal benefit.

Some improvements have occurred since the initial influx of foreign investment.  After the Berlin Wall came down, companies had to become more responsible in their behavior because of globalization.  They can now be sued for irresponsible business practices.  Additionally, Peru’s economy is becoming increasingly market driven, which has catalyzed the creation of consumer bureaus that can be useful in regulating company ethics.

Peru’s economy continues to grow, but Dr. Santillana contends that Peru does not have the state and institutions to sustain that growth. An economy is not sustainable if 60% of it is informal and cannot be regulated by the government. The government is currently not strong enough to impose regulations.  Dr. Santillana likens social unrest as the iceberg that could sink the economy. He is also concerned with the lack of stable political parties in Peru.  He feels that there really is no right wing in Peru.  Instead, officials run on left wing platforms, and then change positions once in office to be more sympathetic to entrepreneurs.  The lack of political parties leaves an opening for extremist groups to become more involved in the political system.  The Shining Path is not a thing of the past, as many people believe.  They continue to be a threat in a new way—by becoming involved in politics.

Dr. Santillana advocates for citizenship as a way towards solving some of the social problems of Peru. Peru is in the process of building a citizenship, and this is done through decentralization, electing local officials, and performing investment planning. My impression is that racism and marginalization are massive obstacles to building citizenship. How does the country reach out to traditionally ignored groups to engage them in the process?  Social unrest grows out of social abuse and marginalization. A concerted and genuine effort must be made to include traditionally abused groups in this citizenship process in order for the process to be used as an effective social reform tool.