It has been reported that a political party, described by the Spanish newspaper El Pais as "ultra-conservative" and "messianic", has made surprising electoral gains in recent Congressional elections held in Peru.
The Frente Popular Agrícola del Perú (Agricultural People's Front of Peru), known as FREPAP, has won the third largest share of the vote (9.6%) in the elections held on the 19th January, according to a report from the Andina news agency. Podemos Peru (15.3%) and Partido Morado (11.5%) were first and second ranked respectively.
FREPAP has had some electoral success in the past, having had one candidate, Javier Noriega, elected to the Congress in 1995. As a result of the recent vote, they will hold 16 of the 130 seats in the Peruvian Congress. The party is distinctive because it is the political wing of the Misión Israelita del Nuevo Pacto Universal (Israelite Mission of the New Universal Covenant) religious movement, which originated in Peru in the 1960s. See a report in El Pais.
A report by journalist Álvaro Arce, following an investigation in 2015, referred to alleged links with the Shining Path and suggestions that they were involved in drug trafficking.
Currently, the movement is led by Ezequiel Jonás Ataucusi, who is the son of the founder Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, a former Adventist, who died in 2000.
There is little published research on the group. A report by Juan Ossio, an anthropologist at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (Catholic Pontifical University of Peru), dated to around 2013, describes the movement's foundation by Ezequiel Ataucusi Gamonal, an indigenous Quechua from the High Andes, who preached a millenarian message as part of an "Andean Messianism" movement. Ataucusi was regarded as a new Messiah who would save the world from destruction. Ossio's summary report is available on the CPUP website, and the project page has some background to the project and images of the movement.
A recent account of the movement is given by Carmen González Hacha, an anthropologist from the University of Lisbon, in the new (2020) edited volume Atlantic Perspectives (Berghahn Books). Hacha describes strands of Catholic thought, Andean messianism, and Peruvian ethno-history in the Israelites' narratives (pp. 48-9). She identifies three fundamental tenets to the movement's beliefs: (1) Peru as a privileged land equivalent to Israel, (2) the founder was a 'Western Christ', succeeded by his son when he died, and (3) that the members will survive a thousand years which will be followed by paradise on earth (p. 51). (See Hacha, C.G. 2020. 'Peruvian Israelites: Territorial Narratives and Religious Connections Across the Atlantic' in M. Balkenhol, R.L. Blanes, and R. Sarró (eds.) Atlantic Perspectives: Places, Spirits and Heritage. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books.)
[Editorial note: additional reference to 'Peruvian Israelites' by Carmen González Hacha added 31 Jan 2020.]
Alastair Lockhart is CenSAMM Academic Co-Director and Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Cambridge.