Parliament approved legislation that represents a step backwards in the quality of education and sex education, and blocked other initiatives to make progress on environmental issues.
While the country was plunged into a new political crisis, the Congress of the Republic took the opportunity to continue approving legislation that represents a step backwards on key issues.
The initiatives approved range from one that attacks comprehensive sex education to the most recent blow to university reform and Sunedu.
They also refused to debate, in the midst of the current ecological disaster, the approval of the Escazú Agreement and, even before that, to raise the tax on large mining companies. Here is an account.
Blow to reform
The most recent blow was the one perpetrated on 1 February against the university reform initiated by the National Superintendence of University Higher Education (Sunedu).
On that day, the plenary of Congress approved three bills that violate the autonomy of Sunedu and incorporate representatives elected by the universities themselves into its board of directors.
Bills 697, 862 and 908, approved by a parliamentary majority in the first vote, also establish that the superintendent of Sunedu will be elected from among its representative members.
The new members would be two representatives from state universities, one from private universities and one from the National Council for Science, Technology and Technological Innovation (Concytec).
As well as one from the National System of Evaluation, Accreditation and Certification of Educational Quality (Sineace), one from the Ministry of Education (Minedu) and one from the Council of Deans of Professional Colleges of Peru.
For specialists, this represents a step backwards because it takes away the autonomy of Sunedu, the body that regulates the minimum quality conditions of universities.
It does so by allowing the universities themselves to choose who will supervise them, a precarious model similar to the one applied during the former National Assembly of Rectors (ANR).
“…] are subject to the elected person being accountable to those who have elected him or her and therefore lose autonomy,” said Sunedu, which has also spoken out against the initiative.
Until now, Sunedu’s board of directors has been made up of two representatives of the state and five independent citizens elected by public competition.
The questions about what has been approved are amplified because what is really being sought is to give a lifeline to universities whose licensing was denied by Sunedu.
In fact, there are 12 members of the Education Commission that approved the initiative so that it could reach the plenary, all of whom have worked for universities that have not been licensed, a clear conflict of interest.
One of them is the group’s own president, Esdras Medina Minaya, a parliamentarian from Renovación Popular who studied for a master’s degree at the Néstor Cáceres Velásquez University in Puno.
For the superintendent of Sunedu, Oswaldo Zegarra, it is clear that the initiative “hides a dark purpose plagued by interests” with which “the universities acted without supervision or oversight”.
Now the bill will have to go through a second vote before it reaches the executive, which will finally have the possibility of observing the norm and avoiding the consummation of this coup.
Against sex education
Another initiative that has also been harshly criticised in the last week is Bill 904/2021, presented precisely by parliamentarian Esdras Medina Minaya.
The proposal empowers a group of parents to approve or disapprove content on Comprehensive Sex Education (ESI), in contravention of the constitutional role of the Ministry of Education (Minedu).
In addition, it establishes review deadlines that would not allow parents to receive other opinions or ask questions about the content or educational materials they observe.
The initiative also proposes to withdraw previously approved educational materials and curricula that do not comply with the provisions of this norm, which would be a form of censorship.
For all these reasons, the proposal is questioned by national entities, indigenous organisations and international bodies, such as the United Nations.
The organisation Amnesty International also spoke out and reminded that CSE “teaches us to decide responsibly about our bodies” and to “establish respectful relationships”.
It is worth mentioning that in 2021, 147 women were murdered and 5000 women were reported missing, according to research by the non-governmental organisation Manuela Ramos.
In addition, in 2021, more than 12,000 reports of sexual violence against children and adolescents were registered, with more than 5,000 of them involving violence against minors, according to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
In rejection of these two proposals on education, on Saturday, February 5, a mobilisation led by youth and student sectors took place.
Students from the universities San Marcos, UNI, La Cantuta, Callao, Agraria, Antonio Ruiz de Montoya and Católica attended the day of protest.
Blockades in the environment
But congressmen have not only taken great pains to generate setbacks in education, but also to impose themselves on proposals that would represent progress on environmental issues.
On 31 February, the Speaker’s Board refused to extend the plenary agenda to debate the approval of the Escazú Agreement, an international treaty that promotes environmental rights.
The decision was adopted with the votes of members of Congress from Perú Libre, Fuerza Popular, Alianza para el Progreso, Avanza País, Renovación Popular, Podemos, Somos Perú and Perú Democrático.
This comes at a time when Peru is experiencing an ecological disaster caused by the spill of 11,900 barrels of oil from a Repsol refinery into the sea off Ventanilla.
Various political leaders represented in Congress had been outraged by this tragedy, but it seems that their indignation is short-lived when it comes to approving progress.
A similar event occurred at the end of December 2021 when the Congress of the Republic refused to raise taxes on large mining companies.
The Executive had requested tax, fiscal, financial and economic reactivation powers to carry out a reform that included such a proposal.
With the increase in taxes on large mining companies, they sought to generate additional revenue of 12,000 million soles, approximately 2,650 million euros.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had pointed out that Peru had room to raise the mining tax burden without affecting competitiveness.
However, Congress only granted the executive branch partial powers for its reform, excluding this proposal and reducing the scope of the tax collection by less than S/. 1 billion.
In detail, the Executive was prevented from making changes to the mining tax regime despite the fact that the price of metals reached its peak and will generate surplus profits for companies in the sector.
This decision was supported by the congressmen of Fuerza Popular, Acción Popular, Alianza para el Progreso, Avanza País, Renovación Popular, Podemos Perú. Here we are.