In Peru, the worrying influence of evangelical deputies of Frepap

Supporters of the Popular Agricultural Front of Peru rally in Lima on January 22. RODRIGO ABD / AP

LETTER FROM LIMA

In the middle of the arid and stony mountains, on the edge of the great suburb of Lima, stands, like a last bulwark before the desert, the temple of the Evangelical Association of the Israelite Mission of the new universal pact (Aeminpu). The religious arm of the political movement of the Popular Agricultural Front of Peru, Frepap, made a remarkable entry into the Peruvian Congress during the extraordinary parliamentary elections on January 26.

A few weeks earlier, no one had bet on this politico-religious formation, present in Parliament twenty years ago, but absent since then. She ran a discreet electoral campaign, far from media radars. And finally won 15 seats (when the best-placed party wins 25) out of the 130 in the single parliamentary chamber, becoming the third largest force in Congress. On March 16, MPs were invested behind closed doors when a state of emergency was declared the day before to curb the epidemic due to the coronavirus (2,281 cases including 83 died on Sunday, April 5).

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In their largest ceremonial center spread over several hectares, at the exit of the city of Cieneguilla (east of Lima), an immense arch surprises the visitor. For the rest, the facilities are modest: the faithful gather under a hanger of corrugated iron. At the time of worship that Saturday – before the appearance of the first case of Covid-19 which led the government to decree compulsory confinement until at least April 12 -, hundreds of faithful, dressed in long tunics , veil for women and long beard for men, hurry to join the assembly.

“Colonialist” aim

The "Israelites", the name by which they are designated in Peru, welcome the breakthrough of the Frepap which has created surprise even in their ranks. "We have been ruled by bad policies which postulate by ambition, to rob the people, said Gladys, purple veil over her head. Our brothers of Frepap, them, will make known the word of god, they are good because they follow the teachings of the ten commandments. " The newly elected officials refuse any public speaking. Communication is locked and all of our interview requests have been denied.

Aeminpu is a movement "Andean messianic", in the words of Peruvian anthropologist Juan Ossio. It combines influences from Judaism and Protestantism with beliefs and rites inherited, according to its members, from the Inca period (around 1200-1533). Founded in 1968 by the self-proclaimed "prophet" Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, an Andean peasant, he was born of a split in an Adventist church. Aeminpu members await the return of the Messiah – or Inca – whose holy spirit is none other than their spiritual leader Ezequiel, now embodied in the figure of his son, Jonas Ataucusi. Their doctrine is based on the Old Testament. The political party, founded in 1989, recruits in popular and marginal areas of the Andes or the Pacific coast. It is predicted that Jonah Ataucusi, the "prophet" who currently lives in hiding, will return with the possibility of a presidential candidacy in 2021.

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