Hello and good day!
Several customers have either written me to ask about the current situation in Peru, or have brought it up for discussion in our chocolate shops.
I don't follow Peruvian politics very closely at all, so I am not fully apprised of the situation, but I do have first hand reports from our cacao farm partners and from my in-laws.
To recap the situation, the president of Peru tried to dissolve the congress and rule by decree.He did that because congress was going to impeach him and he wanted to avoid that.
To give you some context about the politics in Peru, there have been something like 6 different presidents in the last 5 years. One after another has been impeached and replaced. It is a bad situation because the presidents are apparently doing a bad job and there is corruption.
On the other hand, folks are getting sick of the congress nixing president after president. It creates great instability.
A lot of people forget, and this includes Americans, that the government is mostly supposed to be administrative. You know, run the post office, keep the roads in good shape, keep the water and electricity flowing, the mundane but highly important stuff that makes civilization possible At some point, politics became highly ideological and less practical, and I think that was a mistake.
Luckily in the US, our federalist system pushes a lot of administration down to the state and local level, which creates some redundancy. This is not so much the case in Peru. When the national government is in chaos, the roads stop getting repaired, the airport runways crack apart and nobody fixes them, the passport office shuts down because it is understaffed, power outages occur more frequently, etc.
Our cacao farm partners are located in northeast Peru in a very rural area east of the Andes mountainS. My wife's family is also in northern Peru, in the small town of Celendin, which is also a very remote little town of about 30,000 people.
Noe Vasquez has been our business partner in the cacao business for almost 15 years now. We refer to him as a cacao savant. He is an extremely intelligent human being and somebody who cares very deeply for the well-being of his community. He is also the president of the local cacao growers association.
We just sent some money down fo Noe to purchase dried beans.
For the folks out in campo to get money, they have to go into Jaen, the closest big city, to withdrawal money from a bank. There is no bank out in campo and all transactions are made in cash.
The dozen or so small bodegas out in that part of the jungle don't have credit or debit card readers and Amazon doesn't deliver out there either. It is a cash economy.
To get into Jaen is a hour and a half drive under the best circumstances. When the rain is really coming down there can be mud and rock slides that damage and block the road into the city, making the journey take a lot longer. All of the cacao in our chocolate comes out of the jungle on that same road, for whatever that is worth.
Anyhow, here is a direct quote from Noe on the situation in his neck of the woods:
"Thank you for sending the money yesterday before protests shut down the highway and I can't get to Jaen. The people here are not pro-Castillo, but they're anti-congress, they want congress dissolved and new elections. It is very bad. I think a civil war is coming. There are already 10 dead according to news and social media but it's certainly much higher."
That is ugly and worrisome. I hate to be selfish at a time like this, but the cacao harvest is about to start. We need to send money and transport cacao. Hopefully cooler heads prevail.
Peru is a very heterogenous place and the geographic landscape makes it easy to launch effective and economically devastating protests. Cooler heads can prevail in one place while hot heads prevail in another.
In Celendin, where my in-laws live, the "Ronda Campesina" is out. The Ronda Campesina is an autonomous law enforcement organization that comes out of the countryside to enforce laws and keep the peace in many remote Andean cities.
Ronda Campesina roughly translates to "peasant patrol".
These guys are grizzled country folks, high mountain farmers, who carry whips and paddles and strike folks in the street who don't follow orders.
A friend of my father in law didn't abide by the local rules during the COVID outbreak and got himself paddled on the rear end by the Ronda Campesina so severely that he couldn't sit for a week. You can believe that he toed the line after that.
Protesting in Celendin has been squashed. Anybody causing a fuss or fomenting disorder will be handled severely. My family members are living under a curfew and having their every movement monitored when they go out in public. However, that is only in the city.
Out in the mountains, all kinds of havoc can be wreaked. All it takes is a few big boulders in the road to completely shut down traffic on the mountain passes. Hopefully people realize soon that this kind of chaos doesn't serve anybody.
And for me, a key lesson that can be applied to our own politics is becoming clearer all the time. The government is supposed to be administrative.
They aren't supposed to be setting our ideology.
In a free country, individuals are supposed to choose their own system of morals and chart their own path in life. If a government can simply administer competently and economically, that is good enough.
I will look in other places for ethics, spirituality, and inspiration.
When politicians start getting ideological and people start getting fired up as a result, sound administration breaks down, and this precious, delicate thing we call civilization can start to unravel.
People start talking about civil war. War is hell. No human being should want to live through it.
Anyhow, I am running out of steam a bit now.
Thank you for your time today.
I hope at you have a truly blessed day!