Earthquake in Peru: Capital profits from the destruction

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This statement of position about the recent earthquake in Peru was sent to us by a contact in that country. It breathes with indignation about the consequences of this event for the workers and the poor in general, while the reaction of the bourgeoisie has shown all its hypocrisy and cupidity. We fully share the view that capitalism is responsible for these consequences and that only the destruction of this system can allow us to live a truly human life.


 

"It's another test that God above has sent us" (Alan Garcia Perez, president of Peru)

It is perfectly obvious that the bourgeoisie is profiting from this "divine test". In recent months, the Peruvian bourgeoisie has had to deal with millions of militant workers fighting for their demands. These struggles, especially in the mining sector, have shown a high level of proletarian solidarity[1].

In the last ten days, using the regional governments, the provincial bourgeoisie, which has its own particular interests although they are basically identical to those of the national bourgeoisie, had been threatening to paralyse a number of regions. Even certain sectors of the police were threatening to go on strike if their trade union wasn't recognised, and the doctors of ESSALUD (social security) had stopped work since Wednesday morning. Alan Garcia's manoeuvre against the Chilean bourgeoisie[2] had long ceased to have any impact except in the subservient press and the words of intellectuals at the command of the state. A new wave of struggles was threatening to explode on various fronts.

Last Wednesday at 18.40, there was a quake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale about 60 km from Pisco, which is about two hours from Lima. Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants lost everything in 70 seconds, especially in Pisco, Chincha and Ica. These towns were completely destroyed. In Lima, the capital, the shock wave caused considerable damage. The main areas hit were in the north of Lima and in the department of Ica.

The state apparatus seemed to be in total disarray. For hours it did nothing. Neglecting his famous sense of style, President Garcia posed in his office in shirt sleeves, alongside the acolytes he was about to send off to evaluate the scale of the disaster. Nobody could get there by land, since the Panamerican highway was impassable in several places, but a few journalists managed to get to Chincha, Pisco and Ica, the main devastated cities, and immediately began to broadcast their reports. In Ica, the church of My Lord of Luren collapsed, crushing dozens of worshippers in its rubble. In Tambo de Mora (the port of Chincha), the prison walls caved in and 600 prisoners escaped. On Thursday morning, the death toll was already 500, with over a thousand injured. The same day, president Alan Garcia made his appearance, accompanied by the Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo, the army minister Alan Wagner and the president of the Congress Gonzales Posada. During the electoral campaign, the latter had committed himself to reconstructing Ica's airport, a promise which was of course not kept: as a result, aid, which could only have come by air, has still not been able to reach this city.

The first signs of discontent began to be expressed in the population. A few examples of this filtered through despite the chaotic state of information and the grip of the media, showing the real underlying reasons for the disaster: poverty. In the areas of the cities where the main devastation had taken place, the population had built their houses out of mud, and obviously without the least protection against earthquakes. On top of this, many other houses were extremely old and worn and could not resist the quake.

Here is an illustrative example: in Pisco, a town which has a port nearby and a seaside resort for millionaires, Paracas, the impact of the catastrophe was very uneven. The solid buildings and beach villas of the rich stood up to the quake, even though the town of Pisco and the port were totally destroyed. Nature makes no distinctions and accords no privileges; it's the division of society into classes which perpetuates them. It is the poverty provoked by capitalist society which has led to so much destruction, since the poor can never live in solid houses, built with good quality materials and according to plans that take the demands of earthquake zones into account. But the ignominy of capitalism doesn't stop there. The bourgeoisie is already rubbing its hands, thinking about the benefits it can draw from the reconstruction of the country.

The army, which has hundreds of expert building engineers and the heavy materials needed for the job, is for the moment staying in the barracks because financial speculation on the building work has already begun. The various factions of the bourgeoisie are arguing over the contracts. The most significant example was provided by the alliance between the journalist Cecilia Valenzuela and the La Positiva insurance company which wants to reconstruct the region.

Air tickets for this zone have already increased by 400% and Alan Garcia has done no more than protest on the TV, since everyone has to kneel before the rules of the free market. The Credit Bank, headed by Dioniso Romero, has opened an account to hold aid funds for the region, a new source of revenue for a bank which wants to show that it is the best performer in the country, that it has business sense written into its genes. Spanish Cooperation has also made its appearance, as well as Firemen Without Frontiers, in fact the whole edifice of social aid, while central, regional and local government is leaving reconstruction in the hands of private enterprise. But the workers already know that the state, under capitalism, can only be the state of the capitalists.

The UN has already sent a million dollars and the Interamerican Development Bank, which lent 80 million dollars to the Wong corporation with the approval of Fujimori, has only sent 200,000 dollars. The coffers of Caritas have only been opened after some delay. Business has to go on: this is the essential lesson that the local bourgeoisie has drawn from this tragedy.

What we have to draw from it is that while the colossal power of nature can cause a great deal of suffering, the real destructive power resides in the social relations which dominate the lives of millions of human beings. These relations condemn them to live in misery, in the worst possible housing. It is only the disappearance of these bourgeois social relations, the disappearance of capitalism on a world scale, which can allow the whole population of the planet to live decent and human lives. This is the only way we can survive into the future,

H, Lima, 17.8.07


[1] Concerning these struggles, the same comrade has already contributed two articles to our website: http://en.internationalism.org/wr/305/miners-strike-peru, and (in Spanish) http://es.internationalism.org/ccionline/2007/peru_luchas.htm .

[2] The Peruvian state had published a map displaying its claims on territorial waters. The Chilean bourgeoisie took the ball in its court and immediately sent its army to carry out manoeuvres in the north of Chile, on the frontier with Peru. We can see once again that nationalist demands by states are just manoeuvres aimed at prolonging their power at the expense of millions of workers who can be sent to fight against their class brothers in another country. The enemy of the Peruvian workers is the Peruvian bourgeoisie, just as the Chilean bourgeoisie is the enemy of the Chilean proletariat.