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Peruvian democracy faces its greatest challenge since the Fujimori dictatorship
Peru’s new interim president took office on November 17 in unenviable circumstances. Francisco Sagasti became the third president of the South American country in a week, after President Martín Vizcarra was vacated due to “moral incapacity,” which many Peruvians described as a coup by Congress. Then Vizcarra’s successor, Congress President Manuel Merino, was quickly forced to resign after a furious public outcry.Sagasti must now lead a shaken nation not only towards elections, scheduled for April 2021, but also towards the Restoring confidence in democracy. It is not an unprecedented mandate for a Peruvian leader. Exactly 20 years ago, Peru’s political leaders faced a similar test, after the fall of dictator Alberto Fujimori. And finally they failed. And their failures explain why Peru, in the words of political scientist Alberto Vergara, peered into the “abyss” of repressive authoritarianism for six days in November, with protesters facing indiscriminate and deadly violence, including kidnappings, torture, illegal detentions and sexual abuse by the Peruvian police. Great Unfulfilled Expectations During the corrupt government of Fujimori, backed by the army, between 1990 and 2000, Peru’s democratic institutions were dismantled and its democratic values undermined. Dissidents faced death, disappearance and torture. The Fujimori regime collapsed in November 2000 due to electoral fraud and a massive popular uprising. Fujimori was ousted by Congress and replaced by Congress leader Valentín Paniagua.As interim president, Paniagua was mandated, as Sagasti is today, to lead a deeply damaged nation toward a formal democratic transition and help society heal. . In 2001, Paniagua established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to document Fujimori’s atrocities, and created a constitutional commission charged with identifying the structural changes necessary to safeguard Peruvian democracy in the future. Paniagua’s successors were unable to carry out their The Truth Commission meticulously documented state crimes and, in 2009, Fujimori was convicted of human rights abuses. But prosecuting others and repairing victims, particularly the poor, rural and indigenous populations, have been too slow and inadequate. Peru’s post-Paniagua leaders also dismissed arguments that Peru needed a new constitution with greater protections for democracy and the rule of law. The writing of a new constitution could have ensured, as the late Peruvian politician Henry Pease put it, that “[ningún] A scoundrel is above the constitution and capable of eliminating Parliament, ”as Fujimori had done. Instead, Alejandro Toledo, the first democratically elected president after Fujimori, channeled the demands for reform in the 2002“ National Accord ” This document, jointly developed by the government, civil society, and political parties, laid the foundation for Peru’s democratic transition and established a shared national vision, but did little to address Peru’s chronic governance problems. Social, environmental, and accountability controls over public and private investment remained weak. Also the Peruvian courts, which have remained vulnerable to special interests due to a politicized and often corrupt judicial appointment process. Uneven growth The consequences of Peru’s lack of reform have been dramatically revealed in recent years in the Lava Jato corruption scandal, in which construction companies bribed politicians across Latin America to land large government contracts. Since 2016, four Peruvian presidents and Fujimori’s own daughter have been criminally implicated in Lava Jato. Vizcarra, whose vacancy triggered Peru’s current political crisis, became vice president due to this scandal. He came to power in 2018 when then-President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned following bribery allegations, but when lawmakers toppled President Vizcarra on the same charges in November 2020, he prompted immediate public condemnation. The protesters felt that the legislators’ interpretation of “moral incapacity,” a clause in the Peruvian constitution, was dubious at best. At worst, they feared, it was a cynical manipulation by conservatives in Congress to take over Peru’s government. When Vizcarra’s successor, Merino, appointed politician Antero Flores-Araoz, an ally of the far right, those fears seemed to be confirmed. Some 2.7 million Peruvians, almost a tenth of the population, took to the streets. Merino resigned after six days, after failing to secure the support of the military. Today, 85% of Peruvians, according to the Latinobarometer of Vanderbilt University, agree that Peru “is governed by a few powerful groups in their own benefit ”. The country loses around $ 6.5 billion to corruption each year, yet Peru’s economy has boomed since 2000, driven mainly by the extraction of minerals, gas, and crops like asparagus, grapes and avocados. Mining accounts for about 60% of exports. Although these activities occur in rural areas, the countryside of Peru remains extremely poor. A person in Cajamarca, a gold-rich region, is roughly five times more likely to live in poverty than one in metropolitan Lima. Peruvians protesting against environmental damage and dismantling of livelihoods caused by mining, both legal As illegal, they often face violence from the police and security forces. The protests and legal battles over mining in Peru have not received an adequate political response. Oversight of mining operations is so weak that police and military forces sometimes sign agreements with companies to protect mining operations from protests. Sagasti’s Task Improving political and economic inclusion and reforming the police are now high on the list of protesters’ demands. As in 2000, some protesters and politicians are again calling for a new constitution that strengthens the separation of powers in Peru and hold elected officials to account for their actions. In the 2000s, Congress neglected these kinds of structural changes, allowing the problems that gave rise to the Fujimori regime to continue after his overthrow. Today, youth and Vigilant protesters from Peru hope Sagasti will do more. To be successful as a post-crisis leader, you will need to restore Peruvians’ trust in government and lay the foundations for a more democratic future. This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original, Anthony Bebbington is a member of the Oxfam America Board of Directors, Gisselle Vila Benites is not paid, does not engage in consulting work, owns shares, or receives funding from any company or organization that may benefit from this article, and He has declared that he lacks relevant links beyond the academic position cited.