Ollanta Humala, a left-wing nationalist, and Keiko Fujimori, the daughter and number one fan of a former right-wing dictator, will shortly compete for the presidency of Peru, after having obtained the first and second places, respectively, in the first electoral round (which took place on Sunday, April 10th). Notoriously unpredictable as the country is when it comes to politics, no one can foresee the results of the runoff. But given the correlation of political forces and interests today, Fujimori has a good chance of winning the elections. This would entail, as Mario Vargas Llosa puts it, “opening the prisons for all the thieves, murderers and torturers –beginning with her father, Alberto Fujimori, and the sinister Montesinos [Fujimori’s lieutenant]– for them to take the streets once again, to show their tongues to everyone who has defended democracy in Peru. The criminals would go directly from prison to the government.”
Keiko Fujimori, a populist vaguely speaking on behalf of liberal capitalism, has a main goal in mind: liberating dear Dad, who is in prison for having led one of the most corrupt and violent administrations in the world –a mafia state whose dealings (as suggested in a previous post) were meticulously recorded by the administration itself, particularly via videos from the Intelligence Service, which were at some point leaked to the press, setting in motion the inevitable, but perhaps temporary, collapse of the regime.
Consider a couple of glimpses into Alberto Fujimori’s administration: Transparency International calculates that Fujimori embezzled roughly 600 million dollars from public funds, which would rank his regime as the seventh most corrupt of the past twenty years –worldwide. Beyond “normal” channels of embezzlement and piracy, Fujimori also used his creativity to procure illegal funds in almost risible ways. For example, he set up a charity organization in Japan to collect funds for “poor children in Peru,” funds that then he gluttonously diverted to his personal account. He reminds me of Garcia Marquez’s Patriarch, in The Autumn of the Patriarch, a banana republic character at once comical and evil, a childishly wicked being who set things up so as to win the national lottery every single time.
But beyond mere thievery, there was also a truly evil side to the regime. Paramilitary operations and death-squads were, as one would expect, part of the regular business of government. Victims varied, terrorist as well as “suspects” and witnesses, including Javier Ríos Rojas, an eight year old boy executed together with his father, Manuel Rios Rojas, both of whom worked selling ice-cream from a cart. The child was found face-down, as though running toward the father, with 12 bullet shots in his body.
Human rights abuses during Fujimori’s regime also include a massive campaign of sterilization of peasant women. This was a sort of Tuskegee operation, where the women were told that they would be given free medical treatment, while, instead, being surgically sterilized. Fujimori’s former wife repeatedly accused him of battering and abuse.
All in all, the story of this small, bespectacled, meticulously combed, and poorly spoken man belongs to what Jorge Luis Borges called “the universal history of infamy.” But never mind any of that. Via Keiko, today Alberto Fujimori anxiously prepares his return, hoping that the forgiving and forgetful Peruvian voters will once again open the dispensary for him and his buddies (while also allowing him to take his revenge on human rights organizations, on the opposition, etc.).
This bizarre situation makes me wonder if we, sociologists or social psychologists, have devised adequate conceptual tools to account for this possible, and almost Freudian, return of the repressed. Or do we need a new conceptual toolbox to account for this odd set of circumstances?
Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic violence might be a candidate here (although it may not be quite what we need). Bourdieu has helped us see that dominated social actors often vivify –literally in-corporate– the unfair “social cosmology” that oppresses them. They incarnate the symbols of their own oppression, thus giving life to the very discourses that burden them. Their own ideas, sentiments, gestures –their lives as lived everyday— become the media that sustain these oppressive discourses. Symbolic violence, in summary, speaks of a collective embodiment of unfair social structures, a process that creates key aspects of subjectivity, the “nature” of the oppressed; so that the will of the victim of this form of social violence –largely becomes an expression of the will of the world.
Supporting Fujimori are mostly impoverished and generally disenfranchised individuals (as well as those with financial interests tied to the former regime). Was Fujimori a mastermind of symbolic violence, able to create aspects of the habitus of oppressed Peruvians? Or do we need to risk stepping into the territory of psychoanalytical theory to then speak of a vast operation of disavowal in the country today, an almost traumatic refusal to acknowledge reality? Freud has been a reviled and scorned figure –but his work keeps on providing ideas that seem to correspond to reality very well. The Fujimoris of the world fit the almost Jungian image of the obscene, emasculating, and yet seductive father.