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17 November, 2020

The blood of democracy

The battle for democracy already has two heroes, both indigenous.

Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo, 24, and Jack Bryan Pintado Sanchez, 22, were brutally murdered by police forces. The evidence shows that they have not been indirect victims, but direct targets of the repression that prevented the mobilized population from expressing its weariness loudly and directly to the cause of our country’s political, economic and social turmoil: the members of Congress.

Both young people came from indigenous families. Their stories are those of the thousands of families displaced by the internal armed conflict (1980-2000) and the lack of opportunities to work and study. They live in the city of Lima and officially make up 22.5% of the city’s population. They have common characteristics such as invisibility, precarious jobs, little access to quality services, and the only means for them to progress are hard work and education.

Apart from these more than two million people, located mainly in the districts of San Juan de Lurigancho, San Martín de Porres, Ate, Comas, Villa María del Triunfo and Villa El Salvador, among others, there are millions who do not recognize or identify themselves or are not identified as part of or descendants of indigenous peoples, due to various circumstances, including racism.

In the case of Inti Sotelo, his family migrated from Ayacucho to Lima due to the internal armed conflict. His Quechua name, that of her twin sister Killa and her older brother Pacha reflect the indigenous cosmogony, as her mother declares to the press: “With my children, I had the universe in my house [Pacha: earth/space-time; Killa: moon; Inti: sun] and with Inti’s death I lost my sun.” Chaynam chay riki…ukun sunqumanta.

Bryan Pintado was from Loreto and had migrated when he was very young to live with his grandmother. His economic situation did not allow him to keep studying at a university and he worked in casual jobs. His story is that of the thousands of young people who, unable to study, resort to various jobs and occupations, making up 74% of the economically active population (EAP) that work in Lima in service activities, without job stability and in unsafe conditions.

It was not a premeditated action on the part of the police to murder two young indigenous people, nor was it a question of bad luck. It was a matter of statistics, cold and cruel statistics that have been growing since the colonial period with the indigenous population as actors in social mobilizations and part of the labor force that creates wealth for others, whose problems are made invisible at the same time.

Just as blood is vital for humans, so are people’s participation and voice for democracy. Hence, there is a need for them to be present in political decision-making permanently, constantly and compulsorily through its representatives. However, when this does not happen, democracy languishes and becomes a mere representation and a bureaucratic procedure that happens every 5, 4, 3 or as many years as it takes to paint that word and give it a feel of continuity.

Today, we have once again reached a point where the need to be heard, to express the need for change, to demand responsibility – all of which is vital for the continuity of democracy – has taken the life and blood of two young people whose hopes and dreams, and their lives with achievements and mistakes will no longer be their own heritage or that of their families and loved ones, but the heritage and responsibility of all of us.

Democracy today has not been repainted with vain and periodic proposals for change, endorsed in a precarious voting space, but with the blood of two young indigenous people. In the current crisis, it is our responsibility to stop repeating the permanent cycle of regretting the election of our “representatives” and rulers and asking ourselves the reason for this “bad luck” or “when did Peru get screwed up?” Our country will stop getting screwed up when it begins to know itself and express itself in its diversity, in its multiple voices and proposals.