When the Mighty Fall: Corruption and the Struggle of Power in Peru

When the Mighty Fall: Corruption and the Struggle of Power in Peru

“The views represented in this opinion piece do not necessarily represent those of the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy.”

 

It is widely accepted amongst the majority of Peruvians that the country’s institutions are highly corrupt. In fact, Peru has been listed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to the Corruption Perception Index of 2017[1]. However, this problem has reached new heights, as recent events have shaken the foundations of the Peruvian political landscape to a point where it more closely resembles a fictional Netflix series than reality. In this drama, one of the main characters is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the controversial former president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori.

Fujimori started her political career early, at the age of nineteen, when she became part of her father’s government as First Lady of Peru. Her father’s government was marred by corruption and accusations of human rights violations, but nevertheless enjoyed strong support from the public. This experience shaped her career path, and, from the base of her father’s former political movement, she even became a congresswoman between 2006 and 2011. Moreover, she has run unsuccessfully for the Presidency twice, in 2011 and 2016. In the most recent presidential election, although she lost to Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) by a very narrow margin, her party, Fuerza Popular (FP), obtained 73 of the 130 seats in Congress, giving it a large degree of control over the institution[2].

As soon as the new government formed, an ongoing struggle began between Congress and the executive branch. That resulted in constant obstruction, the fall of multiple Ministers and an entire cabinet, and, eventually, the resignation of President Kuczynski. Fuerza Popular continued with its agenda during this period of crisis, but could not escape its consequences. A breach was generated inside the party, as some members of the party, including Keiko Fujimori’s brother Kenji Fujimori, were “punished” for allegedly conspiring with President Kucsynski in order to get ex-president Fujimori pardoned for crimes committed during his autocrat government[3]. In exchange, they gave PKK support with their votes against the presidential vacancy motion that was presented in Congress in December 2017. As an outcome PPK remained as the President.

 

Nevertheless, a second attempt to remove PPK from the Presidency was inevitable, given the allegations of corruption and collusion with Fuerza Popular. This political move resulted in several issues, not only for PPK, but for FP as well. Although the resignation of the President meant an immense victory for Keiko Fujimori, her party also suffered from fragmentation, and the Congress public image was damaged.

At the same time, connections between Fujimori and the members of her party with the Brazilian company Odebrecht were being investigated for possible money laundering and receiving of illegal funds during her electoral campaign.

What nobody saw coming was that, in July of this year, press reports began to emerge about scandalous cases of corruption and influence-peddling involving authorities of the Superior Court of Justice of Callao. These reports included, among others crimes, the negotiation of a pardon between a renowned judge and a person accused of raping a girl. Some of these cases were linked to high officials of the Justice System, Congressmen (mainly of FP), and even Keiko Fujimori herself. The allegations were supported by audiotapes of conversations between these various political figures and authorities. In one such tape, a so-called “Mrs. “K” of “Force Number 1” wanted to meet with Judge Hinostroza (one of the main characters of these audios), apparently to ask for some favor in the judiciary. Fujimori and members of her Party denied that she is the aforementioned “Mrs. K.,” but public opinion appears to disagree. In a recent survey, 89% of the people who had listened to the audios believed that it was Fujimori[4].

 

These series of scandals generated outrage in the population, particularly against the justice system and the Congress. In response to this crisis, current President of Peru, Martín Vizcarra ­successor to PPK after his resignation announced that his government would fight corruption, starting with a national referendum to be held on December 9th. The goal of this electoral procedure was for the citizenship to vote on the approval of the following four political-justice reforms:

 

1) Reform of the National Council of Magistrates the institution in charge of the election of judges and prosecutors, heavily hit by the corruption scandals uncovered in the audios.

2) Regulation of the financing of political parties in order to prevent illegal forms of funding for electoral campaigns.

3) Elimination of the reelection of Congressmen.

4) Return to the bicameral system in the Congress to regulate the power of a single chamber.

 

The Peruvian population was pleased with this presidential announcement, and the approval of President Vizcarra grew considerably, from 27% in July to 43% in August. On the other hand, Congress got just a 7% of approval in August[5].

However, these reforms did not sit well with the FP, who resisted these measures in Congress and event change some of the initial proposals in the referendum to their favor. At the same time, they began blatant attempts to protect several public figures suspected of having committed acts of corruption, including Congressman Héctor Becerril. These attempts were so obvious that, for the first time, Keiko Fujimori’s approval dropped to 10%[6].

 

In the midst of investigations into the case of money laundering against Keiko, several internal conversations of FP were leaked to the press in a WhatsApp chat called “La Botika.” Among other things, these leaks provided evidence of their intention to shield the members of their own circle from different corruption cases, as well as their eagerness to discredit  Domingo Pérez, the prosecutor leading the investigations against Fujimori and others involved in money laundering cases.

Recently, the Prosecutor’s Office presented released the findings of the charges of its investigation, revealing that Keiki Fujimori and other members of FP had essentially established a criminal organization within the party. At the request of the Office of the Prosecutor, and, Judge Richard Concepción Carhuancho is processing those accused.

 

On October 10th, the accused, including Fujimori, were taken into custody, and, although the processes are still ongoing, several have received 36 months of preventive detention. However, this has not prevented Fujimori from sending political messages to her followers, with the apparent purpose of generating sympathy and presenting herself as a political prisoner. This appears to be unsuccessful, as recent polls showed that 75% of the population thinks that she is guilty of money laundering and leading a criminal organization[7].

To say that the population is dissatisfied with the attitude and role the Congress has played in these scandals is an understatement, and does not truly express anguish most Peruvians feel[8]. Many citizens see the coming referendum as a means of punishment and revenge against this institution and the current political class, and this will most likely be reflected when current representatives run for reelection[9].

Overall, it appears justice has finally caught up to Keiko Fujimori and the FP. It seems this game of power has always been, to quote some words from Gabriel García Márquez, “a chronicle of an announced death”. Although, this story is far from over, given the turbulent and paradoxical political past of Peru, we will not have to wait long to see how political forces again realign their strategies and movements to influence the chessboard of power.

 

 

1 https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017#table

[2] It should be mentioned that, in Peru, the Congress has only one Chamber, so to gain the majority of the seats was a very powerful scenario for this opposition party.

[3] The pardon was revoked by a Judge in the recent months

4 https://larepublica.pe/politica/1282770-keiko-fujimori-senora-k-89-peruanos-encuesta-gfk

[5] https://elcomercio.pe/politica/aprobacion-martin-vizcarra-sube-43-gfk-noticia-nndc-550730

[6] https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/11/02/america/1541169761_661433.html

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/es/2018/10/22/opinion-fujimorismo-innecesario-peru/?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyt-es&action=click&contentCollection=keiko-fujimori&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection

[8] https://elcomercio.pe/politica/encuesta-comercio-ipsos-instituciones-mantienen-alta-desaprobacion-noticia-558839

[9] https://elcomercio.pe/opinion/columnistas/circulo-perverso-reeleccion-fernando-tuesta-soldevilla-noticia-582425

Follow Paula Germana and Sonia Gonzalez:

Paula Germana is a first-year student at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy and intends to specialize in Conflict Studies and Management. She obtained her bachelor's degree in Sociology by the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and has worked previously in the National Office of Civil Service of Peru (SERVIR) and the National Office of Electoral Processes of Peru (ONPE) among other institutions. Sonia Gonzales is a first-year graduate student at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, and she intends to specialize in Public and Non-Public Management and International Affairs, International Cooperation and Development. She obtained her bachelor's in Political Science and Government by the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and her professional experience include working for the (Peruvian International Cooperation Agency APCI) and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

One Response

  1. Jean de Dieu Cirhigiri

    Whaou, Great Job! Thanks for giving us more insight the “behind of the Peru Institutions and Governance System!”. Keep your Good Work Up!

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