Something big is happening in Peru

During the ongoing political crisis in Iran, another less noticed "revolution" has been going on in Peru with relatively little international attention, but potentially with lasting consequences for both the country and its role in the global economy.

Over the past two weeks, indigenous protesters have successfully forced the Peruvian protesters have successfully forced the government to reverse planned land reforms that would have opened their traditional land to investment and exploration by international energy companies. 

The demonstrations against the reform turned violent earlier this month in a confrontation that left 50 dead, including 23 police officers. Peru's prime minister offered to resign over the controversy after the government caved to the Indians demands. The leader of the protest movement has fled into exile in Nicaragua after being charged with inciting the violence. 

President Alan Garcia has come under fire for his insensitivity to the violence and for comparing the protesters to "garden watchdogs" protecting their food. Garcia had framed the new development as both an economic opportunity for the region, a way of clamping down on illegal logging, and a way to combat drug trafficking by increasing government presence. 

Granted, the news has been dominated by Iran this month for good reason, but protests leading to the killing of 23 police officers, the reversal of a major government decisions affecting multinational corporations, and the resignation of a head of government, seems like a pretty big deal. I think it's safe to say that if this had happened in Asia or the Middle East it would have been front page news in the United States.

Consider how intertwined it is with U.S. foreign policy, it's always surprising how little discussion Latin American affairs (unless Hugo or Fidel are talking) merits in the United States. Peru's largely ignored situation is a perect example. Since when are race, money, violence, and drugs not interesting topics? 

AFP/Getty Images 


Putin's supermarket sweep

Russia's one-man stimulus machine rolls on:

The prime minister abruptly interrupted a meeting with senior retailers at the Moscow White House, the seat of the Russian government, to drag them on an impromptu visit to a nearby branch of the Perekrestok supermarket chain.

triding angrily through the aisles with a retinue of glum executives in tow, Mr Putin came to a halt in the supermarket's cold meat section and gesticulated towards a packet of sausages priced at just under £5.

Rounding on Yuri Kobaladze, the chain's head of corporate relations, Mr Putin demanded: "Why do your sausages cost 240 roubles? Is that normal?" "But these are high quality sausages," Mr Kobaladze replied, looking crestfallen.

With a look of relief crossing his face, the executive spotted some cheaper sausages.

"Look, these ones are just 49 roubles," he said.

But the prime minister was not to be deterred. "Too expensive," he muttered, before conjuring up a price list from his pocket. "I can show you your mark up. Look at this kind of sausage. You've marked it up by 52 per cent." [...]

Having primed his victim, Mr Putin moved in for the kill. Consulting his crib sheet, he pointed towards a packet of pork fillets.

"This is double the (cost) price," he said to Mr Kobaladze. "Is this normal?"

"Is 120 per cent a high mark up?" Mr Kobaladze responded timidly.

"Very high," the prime minister said.

"It will be lowered tomorrow," the executive replied.

Earlier this month, Putin flew to an industrial town to browbeat factory owners into paying workers back-pay. I see the appeal of Putin's "good czar" strategy, but I wonder in the long term how wise it is to promote the idea that people are struggling just because powerful people are greedy. How long can it be before that anger is turned on the state?