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A religious party is seeking interests in Peru’s legislative elections

JOSE CARLOS MARIATEGUI, Peru (AP) – Andrea Rodrigo, a village on the Amazon River without running water, makes yucca flour, which his family sells on the Peruvian border between Brazil and Colombia.

A 21-year-old Peruvian woman and seven of her neighbors recently sailed for half an hour along a huge river to two indigenous communities where they posted posters for their political party, the Peruvian People’s Agricultural Front.

Known as Frepap, it is the political denomination of the Messianic religious group called the New Universal Covenant of Israel, which merges Old Testament Christianity with Andean culture. The followers believe that the Molina of their leader Jonas Athausus is the incarnation of Jesus Christ, և the Amazon is the promised land or “land without evil”, taking believers to the distant forests bordering Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia.

The outburst of widespread disgust with traditional politicians’s extremely fragmented electorate became a possible favorite in the legislative elections on Sunday, when Peruvians will also vote for the presidency. Observers note that its astonishing growth as a political force has been linked to its religious roots in remote communities, poor neighborhoods, and fatigue from endless corruption scandals among ruling parties.

All former Peruvian presidents since 1985 have been accused of corruption. Some were imprisoned or arrested in their private homes, և one took his own life before the police could seize him. Despite being prosecuted, one is currently running for president and another is seeking a seat in parliament. In the last 12 years, 57 former governors and 2,002 former mayors have been persecuted or are on the run. An official audit in 2019 found that corruption in Peru consumes $ 17 million a day, which is enough to feed the country’s poor.

“I would like to see more members of Congress from Frepap teaching people not to steal,” Rodrigo said as he straightened his hair. On the wall of his hut hung a picture of a blue fish, the symbol of the party, created in 1989 by the late shoemaker Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, the founder of the religious movement and the father of its current leader.

In a snap election in January 2020 following the dissolution of President Martin Vizcara’s congress, Frepap stunned forecasters by winning 15 of the 130 seats, becoming the third largest bloc in the country’s fragmented legislature.

A year later, Frepap retained his image as “isolated from scandals” without an attitude that reflects religious fanaticism or radical conservatism, “said Carlos Raes, an anthropologist who studied the party.

Polls show that no party can win even 10% of the legislature on Sunday, analysts say. : Almost a third of voters are undecided.

Frepap candidates address voters with promises to fight for agricultural development, fight corruption, and protect the rights of the poor. They are staunch religious conservatives, opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Recently, Milka Kopa, a town near the village of Rodrigo, was one of the teachers who passed the three Frepap candidates sent to Amazon voters. He was one of them.

“I walked in the mud, I lived without water, without electricity, without internet,” Kopan told his supporters.

“Frepap does not come and go one day,” he added to applause and chants. “We live here.”

For more than 30 years, Israeli communities found themselves in the Amazon as believers migrated from the Andes or desert areas along the Pacific Ocean, obeying their founder’s call to inhabit the rainforest. Many of the believers live in the state of Mariscal Ram Ռn Castile, a larger forested area than Belgium, divided by the Amazon River near Colombia and Brazil.

Experts note that the first people to join the Israelites of the New Universal Covenant were the poor Andean migrants, sometimes sick or orphans who had no connections in the cities.

“They moved on to the movement because it offered a way to survive in those communities, in agriculture,” said Juan Osio, a professor of anthropology at the Catholic Theological Seminary in Peru, who has written a book about Israelis.

Frepap’s political opponents say its members are united but “opaque” and are concerned about the rise of the messiah on the political stage.

“They are very hardworking, very united, but very closed,” said Julio Tuesta, mayor of the People’s Action Party in San Jose de Cochikinas, a village on the Amazon. “I doubt that they are mixed with religion and politics. What will happen when they have more power? ”

But Andrea’s father, Pablo Rodrigo, said the group’s political achievements had earned the respect of their people.

In the village of José Carlos Marատtegi, he grows rice, lettuce, coriander, tomato, cucumber, pineapple, and papaya yucca. A few months ago, he bought an electric generator and a computer to make community contracts.

“God says that if you work, you will be overwhelmed with bread,” said Pablo Rodrigo. “But if you are idle, you will be poor.”

It is a humble but honorable life, he added. “We do not drink, we do not smoke, we live in peace.”


Religious coverage of the Associated Press is supported by Lilly Endowment through the US Con. AP is solely responsible for this content.


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