I began hearing the word “incertidumbre” when we arrived in Peru, and have seen it in the newspaper repeatedly. Politics, the economy, and now the Corona virus Omicron variant, are all conspiring to make the circumstances around the world uncertain. How is a traveler to plan?
Peru’s national elections were held in July 2021 and at the time, I knew they were controversial. Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori, and representative of the status quo, ran against Pedro Castillo, a teacher and union leader from northern Peru with no political experience. Castillo prevailed, and his win was hailed as a chance to combat corruption and self-dealing for which the presidency is known. At every event, Castillo wears a big straw hat with a high crown that is characteristic of farmers and ranchers in northern Peru.
The Washington Post summarized the issues that arose following Castillo’s inauguration at the end of July (click to see the article). It seems that President Castillo has no idea how to make legislation happen, nor do his advisers. Each time he appoints a cabinet minister, they promptly take a bribe or make a wholly inappropriate act or statement, and are removed. The average duration of cabinet appointees is running at around one month. Four months have passed, and more controversy than ever swirls through the corridors of power in Lima.
An effort to remove the president is beginning. It may take several tries, as government is highly factionalized in Peru, but the general tone seems to be that until Castillo is removed, the country will be rudderless. The situation may continue even longer depending on who and what comes next. With politicians attention fully focused on removing Castillo and keeping themselves on the payroll, there is little time to conduct the business of state.
Incertidumbre marks the economy of Peru, as well. El Comercio, the conservative main newspaper of Lima, describes business on the rebound, but notes that uncertainty is a watchword. Reports describe companies as planning to distribute dividends to stockholders over the next twelve months rather than doing any reinvesting or expanding, because investing during such unstable times is not worth the risk.
We see the result of this uncertainty locally, even here in Barranca. Inflation affects everyone, as food prices seem to be those most rapidly rising. The dollar is near record highs, which doesn’t help people who have made purchases in dollars that must be repaid at the higher rates. Several of our friends and neighbors invested in real estate over the past few years, and now find that just as they are completing construction of new apartment buildings, people do not want to buy, uncertain of what the future holds.
When we arrived in Barranca twenty years ago, it was nearly impossible to buy property along the beach. This year, the combination of Covid deaths and uncertainty has changed things. There are four properties with For Sale signs on them, a property for rent (With permit for a disco!), and two other houses that are for sale but not marked with realtors signs. Beach houses are to be had, and yet the market appears to be on hold this month.
I follow the blog of the Senior Nomads (click to see their blog), and look at the facebook page they host. It is full of comments from people who are traveling right now, in Croatia, Turkey, Slovakia, Slovenia, and other places that do not limit tourist stays to 90 days. People who are traveling now appear unconcerned about the future, whether they are visiting historic towns or skiing in new places. Are they wise or foolish?
Every day, we take time to walk down the seafront to the far end of our beach, and walk back along the water’s edge. At some point during our walk, we usually touch on some aspect of our future planning, trying to decide whether to pick up our European plans from 2020 and try again, or whether to spend the spring and summer of 2022 exploring places in the US where we might settle permanently. Though no one wants to hear an “organ recital,” many of our concerns are health-related, as we weigh returning to Chicago for another round of tests and visits vs. assuming all is well until November 2022.
In the meantime, every day is just a little bit sunnier than the last, as summer works its way down the coast toward us. There are always breaking waves to appreciate, birds floating overhead, and neighbors to greet. We’ll keep walking up and down until we decide what comes next.