The Democracy Blocker: Check Mate, Peruvian Style.
While everyone’s losing their minds over the reeling drama that is American politics, there’s a lesser known drama affecting Peru at this very moment.
So a little background about me — I was born in Peru, born and raised before I moved out to Canada where I spent the majority of my adult life.
Granted, I haven’t been back in over 11 years, but I’ve always done the responsible thing and voted whenever the elections came around. At the very least, I’ve still got friends and family there, and some day maybe I’d even take my children to visit.
That doesn’t seem likely anymore, though.
In recent years, politics in Peru have turned into nothing but a mockery of democracy. You think Trump is bad? Try watching people reelect the guy who single-handedly caused the country to go into deep bankruptcy and corruption. No seriously. They reelected him 23 years later, when he made it a point to come back only after the statute of limitations on his arrest had expired. Neat, eh?
And things are actually about to take a turn for the worst.
It now appears as though Keiko Fujimori (our version of Sarah Palin) — daughter of Alberto Fujimori (ex-president of Peru, jailed for human rights violations, amongst other things) is running for president and has a real chance of winning. If you haven’t caught on by now — that entire family is corrupt as fuck.
And what’s most interesting (the word I really want to use here is disastrous, to be perfectly honest,) in what appears to be a move to sway the elections, the majority of Peruvian ex-pats have actually been blocked from voting this year.
The Peruvian Voting Process
A little lesson on Peruvian politics first.
Absolutely everyone over 18 must vote. If you don’t, you are generously fined and blocked from proceeding with any legal matters until you pay.
Now this isn’t a process I disagree with. Adults should be part of the decision that will ultimately shape the future of their country.
This process has been in place for as long as I can remember. Since we were kids, we were always grilled about how we had to go get our DNI (National Identity Card) always have it with us, and always have our voting stamps up to date.
Now there is a law that exempts all ex-pats from being fined for not voting if you live abroad and are unable to assist the voting round (as per article 4. in Law #28859.) This makes complete sense (so far.)
A Dark Turn
When I first moved to the UK in 2014, I made it a point to go to the Peruvian Consulate in London and register. As a side note, it’s to be noted that Consulate has the absolute worst service ever, and is only open for 3 hours every day, which is a drag when you have to take a 2 hour train ride to get there. There’s also a pun about unreliable UK train services here.
But moving on..
As I was saying, I went to the Consulate to register. I filled out a form with my name and address, and clearly asked if there was anything else I had to do.
The lady on the front desk told me there was nothing else, that as long as the Consulate had my details, everything was in order. I even asked if I had to change my ID card as it still had my Canadian address on it. She assured me again that everything was in order.
Then on February 5th of this year, I then receive the following email:
If Spanish isn’t your forte, it basically says I must confirm that my ID card contains my correct UK address, and that I must update the consulate by February 8.
Now it must be noted, this email does not contain any information about why or how to update my address, nor did I receive any previous communications from the Consulate.
In a panic, I joined a Facebook group for Peruvians living in the UK. Everyone else seemed to be in a panic as well, not knowing what to do, if we had to pay fines, or what the process was to get our addresses updated. Some of them didn’t even know when the elections were taking place.
I proceeded to contact the Consulate directly to let them know I wasn’t notified previously of any address changes I had to make, and the last time I was at the Consulate, no one advised me of such a thing either.
Their response was as follows:
“Estimada señora Saez: Veo que usted acudió al Consulado en agosto de 2015. Lamentablemente, la información relativa al cierre del Padrón Electoral llegó meses después, en Noviembre, por lo que durante su visita al Consulado efectivamente no se encontraban aun colgados los anuncios sobre el particular. No obstante, la invito a revisar nuestra página web y redes sociales, en particular Facebook, donde se suben los anuncios relevantes en el Album “Elecciones 2016”.
Translation: They only found out on November 2015 that this had to be done, and that they posted updates on their Facebook page.
I went ahead and scoured their Facebook page, where I found said update posted on November 17, 2015, advising that the end date to update your information was December 12, 2015. There were no previous updates of this either. Further updates came on February 4, 2016.
Fact: There are 2.5 Million Peruvian ex-pats living around the world.
The Consulate found it appropriate to give less than a month’s notice for all Peruvians living in England to update their national cards (via Facebook) rendering hundreds if not thousands of ex-pats unable to vote.
They were, however, able to send out an email asking if their records were up to date after the opportunity to do it had past, but didn’t even flinch to make an effort to communicate the announcement that actually mattered.
I don’t know who made the executive decision to notify Consulates across the world on November 2015 that ex-pats had under a month to complete the process, but it surely seems suspicious. (It was 20 days, to be exact. I counted.)
All I got was a pat on the back and a swift reply that “we would be notified when the proceedings can continue.” On the bright side — no fine?
In other words, not only can I not update my information, I am unable to vote, and I am blocked from doing so “until further notice.” Notice which will be posted on Facebook, when they actually know.
Your move, democracy.