The letter from Peru is a call for help.

Posted 16 Aug 2002 at 01:58 UTC by Alleluia Share This

Several have been asking about the current status of the 'letter from Peru.' Here is an answer, structured within the language of advocacy. Several links are at the end of the article.

The letter from Peru has a context. It eloquently brought worldwide attention to a cause that has been quietly underway for several years, which is to bring free software into use by the governments of developing nations, for the twofold effect of 1. reducing cost and 2. maintaining an independence from the whims of proprietary software developers, including security concerns. As detailed below, the news from Peru has encouraged legislators in other similar governments to begin moving forward with similar proposals. Others which were already underway have received strength from the clarity of that letter.

As the largest software developer to be affected by this strengthening, Microsoft immediately responded with an array of threats and short-term promises to Peru if it will _not_ enact such legislation. This tension brings notoriety to all sorts of related issues which spiral outward from the core debate of open source versus closed source, such as security, copyright, and the stability or credibility of various development platforms. As a result, many landmark concerns with effects ranging well into the future are being studied for the first time by people whose role is to create laws, all over the world. If ever there was a critical 'moment' in the advancement of free software as a cause, it began in the spring of 2002 and will continue briefly for the next few years as these issues reach legislative form which is international in scope, although local in fact.

"Among other countries, the closest are Brazil and Argentina; for Europe, we know about the law passed by the German parliament, as well as the proposal in France and the study presented to the English parliament. In Asia, above all there are the actions of the Chinese Government," said Dr. Villanueva in an interview with Linux Journal.

Within the open source community, here is the central issue of which to be aware:

Now that free software has reach a critical mass that brings it to the attention of legislators as a legally-mandated option, there is no turning back. Hour by hour now, a vacuum is being created in legislative bodies worldwide, which will be filled one way or another with a body of law that regulates software 'choice' in ways not seen before. If open source advocates do not move with clarity at this point in time, legislation influenced by proprietary software will be implemented in ways which make it more difficult to choose free software options in the future.

Thus, now is a perfect time to soberly consider the technical merits, overall marketing strategy, and long-term future of Free Software, by everyone who can work on these issues. In this light, here follows an up-to-date list of annotated links which will set a solid starting point (there are many more links to be gathered) for others who can begin implementing similar legislatively-oriented projects in their local government, local Linux User Groups, and other forums. It is entirely possible for this sort of legislation to be enacted in your local government, no matter where on Earth you may be. Villanueva is encouraged by local youth who have said they are willing to march for this cause.

"It is the youth that needs to drive its creativity, its intelligence, its intellect ... there are many young people that can create their own employment through [the use] of free software," said Villanueva in an interview with Linux Today.

We must be careful to let free software develop in an organic manner, that is, slowly an of its own momentum, never forcing it by overmarketing it. By resting firmly on its technical merits, free software development will remain free; if we entangle it with marketing. It is upon this solid ground that we must stand, as we approach legislators, never letting our advocacy leap ahead of our ability. In this manner, free software will always have a reputation for honesty.

The following links get right to the heart of the issue.

Via Libre: This site, in conjunction with GRULIC, is a perfect example in history for a dedicated grassroots effort which is having a solid impact; these people helped Dr. Villanueva compose the original proposal (link translated to English by On the site is a 'law' template which can be copied and localized throughout the world.

Pimiento Linux links : links regarding the Peruvian letter as they appear in world news.

GRULIC list : a Linux User Group in Argentina which has compiled a solid list of laws currently under consideration around the world.

GRULIC's Bigger List : GRULIC has gone into great detail.

Advogato article : in a comment to a story, a user expanded on some of these themes, with links to barrapunto and others.

Barrapunto article : The "Spanish-language Slashdot" has this article, which is a July update on events, with comments (link translated to English by

PLUG: Peruvian Linux User Group which has taken this cause on in several ways (link translated to English by

Loads of Linux Links: The advocacy page from Loads of Linux Links.

Thanks to Google for their freely-available ads-free translation software.

Say it again ... louder!, posted 16 Aug 2002 at 04:48 UTC by garym » (Master)

This deserves restating because it is our greatest foe, far greater than all the Microsoft promises, threats and FUD:

We must be careful to let free software develop in an organic manner, that is, slowly an of its own momentum, never forcing it by overmarketing it.
It is imperative that we retain this honesty and the integrity of our methods, even if some say that "business does not work without deliverables" and even if someone offers us the exclusive provisioning rights to the Pentagon!. Remember this: By our merits alone we have come this far, by the beauty of our methods Bob Young tied the multi-million dollar funded NT, and it is by these methods that we will prevail. If we do as the recent UL promises state ... well, if grafting old-school methodology and constraints on it did work, then why is the world having this discussion right now? Client-server did not give us the Web, AOL did not give us P2P and bi-annual releases by cloistered developers is not going to give us transparent technologies.

Here's my advocate's pep talk: We have nothing to fear but our own fear of not winning fast enough. We must put the code first, admit it's shortcomings, and as Alleluia says, never let our advocacy (or that of our collegues) outpace our ability.

It's not the Penguin, it's the Gnu, posted 16 Aug 2002 at 05:13 UTC by garym » (Master)

Another warning came in today from CNN/Money:

For investors, the penguin means the possibility of growth, something sorely lacking in much of today's technology landscape.
This is the conclusion at the bottom of an article advising investors to follow companies who side with Tux.

Now I ask you, is that funny or is it just sad: With all the glitz and glamour over this week's Corporate Lovefest, with all the trumpets and flagwaving over homeland economics and security, have they all missed the point that it's not the flightless bird that gives the edge, but the GNU that powers it?

ok, ok, I know there are other free software licenses, so don't harp on about that. my point is no less true for any of them. it's the methodology the license allows that is our magic pixie dust.

How Gay is this..?, posted 19 Aug 2002 at 15:29 UTC by mglazer » (Journeyer)

This all sounds very gay...

There is 'no all or nothing' philosophy in life, that way of thinking in third world countries is known as Facism' and we all know how that evil social experiment ends.

Instead, being open to a wide-range of thinking (i.e open source or otherwise) is a more balanced approach to eveything in life. There is no one way to anything, including writing software. Everything has its positives and negatives, do not be blinded by your own enthusiasm to harsh realities. Learn from everyone, merge into something bigger than one-self.

Forcing or telling soemone to do something one way will only backfire on you. The more the better, the less the worse. Let everyone in, be open not restrictive to only one thing.

Yes open source is not the only thing, and definetely not the only 'open' thing either.

Be Buddha, have balance, a little of Ying, a little of Yang.

I'm puzzled ..., posted 27 Aug 2002 at 21:18 UTC by jbuck » (Master)

How did homosexuality enter the discussion? (And now some moron will criticize me for being "politically correct" for objecting to this usage, accuse me of censorship, and all the rest, expecting everyone to submit to this corruption of the language in which "gay" == "bad", as if bullying people not to object to something is less censorious than raising an objection in the first place).

In any case, if a government chooses to avoid spending taxpayer money on Microsoft, this is a choice, not coercion. One could make an argument that, for governments, open data formats and protocols are the most important thing, so that no one will be forced to buy software from only one provider. "But they offered the low bid" is meaningless if they can achieve lock-in and jack up the price when you need to upgrade.

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