Last month, former president of Peru Alan García was denied his plea for asylum at the Uruguayan embassy, which stated that as “the three branches of the state function freely” in Peru, García did not have a case for asylum. The president, who has been banned from leaving the country since November, will go on trial for accusation that he took bribes from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht during his second term in office from 2006 to 2011 (BBC News 2018).
Of course, García is not the only Peruvian politician to be accused of corruption. The past four presidents of the country are all under investigation for corruption, three of which (Ollanta Humala, Alan García and Alejandro Toledo) also being swept up in the Odebrecht scandal. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, while not yet found to have ties to Odebrecht, was forced to resign in 2018 following a vote-buying scandal, and is facing an additional investigation for allegedly taking part in a vote-buying scandal (BBC News 2018).
A fifth former Peruvian president, Alberto Fujimori, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being found guilty for bribery, abuse of power and human rights abuses committed while in office, including the authorization of mass executions by death squads. Although pardoned in February of 2018 on grounds of declining health, the decision was overturned by Peru’s supreme court in October following protests in the streets of thousands of Peruvians (BBC News “Alberto Fujimori profile” 2018).
Now, Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori, is also vying for the country’s top spot. She is anything but free from scrutiny, though, as she is also in pre-trial detention after accusations that she took $1.2 million USD in bribes from Odebrecht. Her election could further expand the web of corruption that has enveloped numerous officials across the country, but, thanks to her father’s legacy, Fujimori still enjoys overwhelming support from numerous constituents (BBC News 2018). Alberto Fujimori, despite his failures, is still deeply regarded by many as the savior of the country for radical free-market reforms, privatization of state-owned companies and reduction of state-interference in the economy, all decisions which are thought to have ended the country’s hyperinflation and set the groundwork for sustained economic growth. He also captured the leader of notorious rebel group the Shining Path (BBC News “Alberto Fujimori profile” 2018).
However, with 94 percent of Peruvians saying that they perceive the country’s corruption as high or very high in a poll conducted by Datum, it is possible that the country will opt for future candidates with less scandals tied to their name (BBC News 2018).
How, though, will the country be able to move forward given the deeply rooted corruption that has overtaken the majority of its institutions? Sonia Goldenberg, former executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, suggests that Peru will need to reform its leadership and create strong institutions, both of which the country lacks. Such reform has failed to come about in recent years because the decision makers to put such reforms in motion are corrupt themselves (2018).
One of the most critical problems undermining Peru’s progress is the unsupervised illegal and foreign financing of presidential elections and “extremely weak party structures,” according to Goldenberg. The two create the perfect environment for inexperienced politicians to become millionaires overnight (2018).
Perhaps luckily for the integrity of the Peruvian political system, though, the country is now following the lead of President Martin Vizcarra, who took office after Kuczynski’s resignation in March. Vizcarra pushed through a referendum last month for four political and judicial reforms, all intended to target corruption (Aquino 2018).
It was mandatory for citizens to participate in the referendum, under penalty of fine, affecting a total of 24.3 million eligible Peruvians. An exit poll conducted by Ipsos Peru reported that 87.1 percent of voters had approved regulating the financing of political parties, and 85.0 percent had backed judicial reform. The third proposal, which would ban the immediate re-election of lawmakers after a five-year term, was supported by 85.2 percent of voters (Aquino 2018).
The only proposition that was rejected was the creation of a second chamber of congress (Aquino 2018).
While Transparency International has said that the judiciary and Congress are Peru’s two most corrupt institutions, the referendum strictly focuses on regulating political party financing, the National Council of Magistrates (CNM) and the reelection policies of Congress, but the results of the vote are a good step for the country. Although it was feared that the referendum, regardless of the vote, might be rejected by Congress, many predict that the Popular Force - the current congressional majority - will feel politically obliged to approve the bill (Tegel 2018).
Vizcarra pledged in his inauguration speech to fight “at any cost” to stifle the rampant corruption in his country. Although the promise has been overutilized and nothing but empty, this time, Peru may have a president that is suited to fulfill it; a man who never planned on being president in the first place.
BBC News. 2018. “Peru corruption: Ex-President Alan García denied asylum.” 3 December. BBC News Latin America. Available to read here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-46430050 [Accessed 15 December 2018].
BBC News. 2018. “Alberto Fujimori profile: Deeply divisive Peruvian leader.” 20 February. BBC News. Available to read here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-16097439 [Accessed 15 December 2018].
Goldenberg, Sonia. 2018. “Can Peru’s Democracy Survive Corruption?” 25 March. The New York Times. Available to read here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/25/opinion/peru-democracy-corruption.html [Accessed 17 December 2018].
Aquino, Marco. 2018. “Peruvians back anti-corruption reforms in referendum: exit poll.” 9 December. Reuters. Available to read here: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-peru-referendum/peruvians-back-anti-corruption-reforms-in-referendum-exit-poll-idUSKBN1O80KK [Accessed 31 December 2018].
Tegel, Simeone. 2018.”Corruption scandals have ensnared 3 Peruvian presidents. Now the whole political system could change.” 12 August. Washington Post. Available to read here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/world/the_americas/corruption-scandals-have-ensnared-3-peruvian-presidents-now-the-whole-political-system-could-change/2018/08/11/0cd43ab0-9a82-11e8-a8d8-9b4c13286d6b_story.html [Accessed 4 December 2018].