Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Outrage in Peru over business as usual

From here, it's outrageous to think that thousands of Peruvians have taken to the streets to protest alleged corruption in President Alan Garcia's government. While it's easy to understand the anger over an alleged scheme involving the government's sale of oil exploration rights off Peru to a company that paid more than $100,000 to benefit of two powerful officials, it's downright refreshing to see citizens protesting over activities that are expected and accepted as ordinary business practices in the United States. In the Bush administration and many administrations before that, top company officials traded places with government agency leaders on a regular basis, the vice president meet secretly with industry insiders over regulatory matters and refused to reveal what was said or decided, industry leaders hostile to government regulation were appointed to lead regulatory agencies and top government officials have left for lucrative positions in the industries they were regulating. But U.S. citizens largely stay in their homes -- even, as in the case of the Bush administration in 2004, re-electing the government. In Peru, the leader of the country's largest labor federation, the CGTP, called for Garcia to shake up his cabinet and give up his free market policies, which are credited for reviving Peru's economy but blamed for failing to raise ordinary people's incomes, according to the Reuters international news service. "Something stinks," said Mario Huaman, the head of the CGTP, Reuters said. The scandal has forced three top Peruvian energy officials to quit, including Mines and Energy Minister Juan Valdivia. Alberto Quimper, a director of Perupetro, the state energy agency, and Cesar Gutierrez, president of Petroperu, were canned after they were caught on tape agreeing to give favorable treatment in drill bid auctions to Discover Petroleum, a small Norwegian company that had paid more than $100,000 in direct and indirect payments to Quimper and Gutierrez, Reuters said.

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