The positive things happening in Peru

Posted 13 Jul 2002 at 08:49 UTC by async Share This

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, 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.

Pop Media: As Good As Useless, posted 13 Jul 2002 at 15:34 UTC by tk » (Observer)

Heil, 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".)

Translations from Barrapunto, posted 13 Jul 2002 at 17:16 UTC by graham » (Journeyer)

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 months, so 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 :-)

If nothing else..., posted 14 Jul 2002 at 09:38 UTC by salmoni » (Master)

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.

Wow, thanks for the update, posted 14 Jul 2002 at 12:08 UTC by tk » (Observer)

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. :-(

bill wins round.. now for next round..., posted 16 Jul 2002 at 09:36 UTC by graham » (Journeyer) :-(

'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).

more from, posted 26 Jul 2002 at 22:37 UTC by graham » (Journeyer)

Now 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, giving a summary of where they're at now:

  1. 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 been 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.
  2. 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 resonance 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 congressmen to support us in the next legislature, signing their support for the project.
  3. As you can appreciate from [ 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 topic, 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 international 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 the 'demonstration' will be public and with a similar opportunity for free software
  4. Concerning the agreement between president Toledo and Microsoft, we only know the outlines. Nobody knows anything (unless I'm mistaken?) about the appendices which are about 30 pages in the draft agreement which was circulated extremely cautiously round a few organizations on Monday. Well the tasty morsel for Microsoft is getting into eGovernment (nothing is mentioned in the official eGovernment site,, 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).
  5. 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 [ ] 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 stopping information 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.
  6. 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...

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!

Share this page