The positive things happening in Peru
Posted 13 Jul 2002 at 08:49 UTC by async
For most of us, the first mention of free software in Peru came through the publication of the Honorable Dr. Nunez's open letter to Microsoft. I found it refreshing to see such a display of clear and forward thinking on the part of this Peruvian congressman. Apparently, I was not the only one inspired...
Indeed, Dr. Nunez's thoughtful letter
even caught the attention of one chairman of a large corporation. Along with many of us, William Gates found the letter to demonstrate such forward thinking and initiative on the part of the Peruvian government that he took it upon himself to arrange for the support of Peru's plan to modernize its schoolsystem with computers and internet connections for use as learning tools.
The fine publication, News.com writes (by way of Reuters):
Peru's President Alejandro Toledo will travel to Seattle this weekend for talks with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates during which he will sign accords to support his Huascaran Internet-for-schools project.
Who would have thought that a simple, well-thought out letter from Peru would cause Microsoft to take an about face and support Peru in their free software endeavours.
P.S. some sarcasm was harmed during the making of this article.
, who cares about President Toledo. :-) I just wish to know how
the proposed free software bill is faring. Is there any good way for
tracking such news?
(Actually, it's not "Dr. Nunez", but "Dr. Villanueva".)
I tried to post this story on Slashdot. They didn't take it. So Advogato
is now a refuge for Slashdot rejects ;-) async, hope you don't mind me semi-hijacking your article...
The actual content below is the two translated items from barrapunto, the Spanish-language
Slashdot.That's probably the best way to track this and related news
(for example, they reported on the Catalan law and its aftermath, and
are currently running a story with links to the proposed Colombian law).
Otherwise, you can see Microsofts 2nd attempt at attack (using the local software associations as a mouthpiece) on the peruvian gnu site, or whole bunches
of related stories and translations
on pimientolinux. The best
list of links to proposed laws world-wide I know of is grulic, in Argentina.
Anyway, here's my Slashdot reject. Unfortunately whether Bill does buy
Toledo off matters very much to what happens to the law, as you'll see..:
Remember Dr. Villanueva and the Peruvian software bill? A month ago the
linux world was full of it. The letter received massive support
worldwide; the publicity gave the impetus to the first Peruvian
international conference on free software in government, with among
others Miguel de Icaza. And the bill made it to the committee stage,
beating off all comers: as far as logic goes any opponents didn't have a
leg to stand on.
Microsoft's normal tactics in this situation are to work through local
Software Associations; unfortunately, in this case the bill was too well
argued (in terms of the need for the state to use open formats to store
public data, to use software with code which can be inspected for
national security reasons, to encourage the development of skilled
programmers rather than button pushers etc) for the local associations
to make much impact.
So, Microsoft has had to roll out its real weapons: money and power.
Bill Gates has, according to the paper El Comercio, offered the Peruvian
Government large amounts of money for its educational and social
programs (presumably in the form of donations of Microsoft software -
the tactic used in Mexico - though this isn't known for sure yet), and
has sent for Peruvian President Toledo, who is now in Seattle visiting
the great man himself. The bill has been put on hold awaiting President
Toledo's return (without, apparently any legal justification). I think
its a safe bet to assume Bill has enough money to buy a President.
The sources for this story are all in Spanish, and appeared on the
Spanish-language Slashdot barrapunto. So I'm appending translations here.
First the original Barrapunto story (from :
It seems that the Micro$oft lobby has counter-attacked. In Peru
President Bush of the United States has started to apply the pressure to
stop the Peruvian Free Software Bill through his embassador, Hamilton.
Congress has approved Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo's [...] trip
to the US to meet Bill Gates. According to the newspaper El Commercio,
the apparent aim of the Peruvian president's visit to Seattle is to ask
for economic aid from Bill Gates, who may make a donation through the
Gates Foundation to support the 'social and educational programs' of the
peruvian government ... And worst of all, the law has gone back to first
base as expressly requested by the commissions studying it while Toledo
is away with the Micro$oft people
And then a comment on the story from one of the people involved:
I've always been fairly discreet about this topic, because we really
only wanted to advance when we were sure of things and not to create
false hopes in the
community. I've been very directly involved with the bill in recent
much so that I've had to connect directly with many people in the
government; well, not just me but also many linux friends and activists
who believe that a free software law would be incredibly beneficial for
such a poor (speaking in economic and technical terms) nation as Peru. I
had the chance to explain and defend the law in the national parliament,
and I'm very happy to say that there was never a point when the people
who opposed the law had a single conving argument against it. In this
part of the dialogue the arguments presented are extremely solid, and
it's very clear that free software is better. As they couldn't beat us
on technical grounds, all this had now taken on political colouring, and
that's where Microsoft has pushed its campaign. lobbying and persuading
peruvian politicans to drop the bill; what you saw on barrapunto is a
reflection of the success Microsoft has had with this policy. The bill
is supposed to be in the committee stage (it has to pass two committees
before being voted on in parliament); there's already been a debate on
the committee where some comrades defended the free software position
against charges from APESOFT (Peruvian Association of Software
Producers) and PCM (Presidency of the Council of Ministers) who I should
say in passing are partners of M$. But bringing up x justifications like
the death of an ex-president, the revolt in Arequipa, and uncountable n
other things, the committee has ordered a wait till President Toledo
comes back to come to a decision, which has no legal basis, and the
worst of all as you well know the only purpose of President Toledo's
trip is to meet up with Bill Gates himself, so you don't have to be too
bright to see what's going to happen there and how they're going to make
the law disappear. In any case, we're not going to wait with our arms
folded, we're going to start protests (peaceful of course), and writing
letters to the media to show our indignation with how things are being
manipulated. In the hypothesis that the bill is dropped, we'll carry on
with the 4 congressmen who have presented similar bills, although the
one which had most resonance and is the most advanced is Dr.
Villanueva's (the one of the famous letter to M$). In any case all of us
who have taken part in this are very proud because we've achieved a lot,
the important thing is that many people who didn't know free software
existed know about it now and that will help us break the software
monopoly. We can all fight for this cause, if you copy a Linux CD for
your neighbour you're already helping :-)
It saddens me that yet again the display of money and power dazzles us. In the long run, this will be more expensive for Peru, but I suppose that President Toldeo can come back announcing a big success to the electorate to give him postive column inches. Short term gain indeed, and frankly, I feel very negative about the outcome of this. I certainly hope the people of Peru will be given all the information about the topic to enable an educated decision, but we must face facts - that for the large majority of people, computers are just computers, and doing a deal with a foreign (US) company convicted of illegal business tactics is not that important as long as it appears to give some kind of benefit. I'm just wondering what Microsofts eventual benefit will be outside of rubbing the OS communities nose in their success should they prevail.
If nothing else, Dr Villaneuva's letter still stands as one of the most convincing documents in favour of open source software, and we can take heart in knowing that very few real arguments can oppose us, only money, power and corruption.
The bill has been put on hold awaiting President Toledo's return (without,
apparently any legal justification).
Thanks. So this is how things stand... There's really no good reason for the
government to choose Microsoft, when there are many other sources of
teaching software, ranging from the zero-cost to the low-cost (this comes to mind). This strongly
suggests that President Toledo isn't really aiming to please his electorate,
as hinted by Reuters, but rather to get something from the Big Redmond
Company. *imagine yet another rant here on "objective journalism"*
If that's the case, then educating the Peruvian people won't help towards
stopping Microsoft's attack, and I believe nothing short of a full-blown
anti-corruption investigation will do the job. Though I'm not certain how
such an investigation can be materialized. :-(
'The project aims to create Centres of Competence and a critical mass at
national level for the development of applications and contents based on
Microsoft tools, and at the same time create project leaders certified
for Microsoft environments'
'It also includes the necessary mechanisms to give the Government Palace
its own secure web page' [sic] !!!
(there's lots more, that's just snippets).
Now gnu.org.pe have the smoking gun: letters showing the American
embassador acting as an errand boy for Bill Gates. The scanned documents
are linked to from this public letter from Jesús Marquina-Ulloa of
gnu.org.pe, giving a summary of where they're at now:
- The bills we're supporting one way or another (which, to remind you,
have 4 authors: Villanueva Nuñez, Estrada
Perez, Villanueva Nuñez - Rodrich Ackerman, Gonzales Reinoso) have never
filed away. In the Sunday supplement to La Republica you can see that many
bills of equal importance went on to be analysed in no hurry in the
next legislature, and that's where we must act more decisively.
- They say that congressmens' acts are a function of pressure from the
people. The bills they present necessarily need the support of those who
defend it them, regardless of whether they benefit or not.
In our bill, which involves many of the state's economic interests, we have
to make our presence felt more strongly showing the congressmen they aren't
alone. I don't mean protests blocking off streets, like we get daily in
Lima now, but a measured contribution in activities which have some
to let them know that their decisions affect the technological future of
the majority of the country. For now we have promises from 2 more
to support us in the next legislature, signing their support for the
- As you can appreciate from http://www.gnu.org.pe/lobbyusa-congreso.html
[ scans of notes sent by the US embassador to the peruvian government on
behalf of microsoft] the letters from the Americans have sparked the
interest ofthe press, and above all a lot of indignation from those of
us trying to
defend our ideas democratically. These letters, even though from a reliable
source, were never denied by the congress presidency simply because they
weren't worth it. In any case we have to wait till Congress debates the
and then we'll know if the letters have done their task. One point in favour
of this: some congressmen wish to request the presence of our friends from
the US embassy so that they can 'demonstrate' to the peruvian and
communities why a state like ours should continue with the proprietary
software model and not follow the free software alternative, which in the
long run will bring better results, according to many experts. Of course
'demonstration' will be public and with a similar opportunity for free
- Concerning the agreement between president Toledo and Microsoft, we
know the outlines. Nobody knows anything (unless I'm mistaken?) about the
appendices which are about 30 pages in the draft agreement which was
extremely cautiously round a few organizations on Monday. Well the tasty
for Microsoft is getting into eGovernment (nothing is mentioned in the
official eGovernment site, http://www.pcm.gob.pe/pcm/Egov/index.htm), but
the business also concerns the famous project of 18,000 local developers
for .net (according to what they say, they'll use the 100,000 from
the State). We already know that the Huascaran plan is 550,000, only
payable for training of teachers in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint (just
12 hours each for those 3 *beautiful* courses).
- In regard to this agreement it is necessary to demand publicly the
publication of the entire document as signed. In my understanding the
Congress President and the Executive in turn have been formally requested
to carry out full publication, and a complaint presented regarding this
unconstitutional attitude. There are antecedents in the Chile-MS
agreement [http://www.granvalparaiso.cl/actualidad/210.htm ]
There Congress was listened to after 1 year. We will prepare to do this, or
at the worst, to dig in for a long wait. Microsoft's attitude is
technology specialists from giving their opinion on the proposals, as should
happen in a state of law. It prefers a fait accompli and not a debate on
whether it is really appropriate for a country to get itself into permanent
debt for the sake of a few supposed donations.
Once the whole agreement is published, I'm convinced that we'll have a
lot of material to defend free software in the next legislature. For now
we have to put on a brave face and carry on with the movement...