[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]


Volume 65 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: PERU


PHILIP MAUCERI, Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Northern Iowa

PERUVIANS CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE with the legacy of President Alberto Fujimori. In November 2005, Fujimori was detained in Chile after leaving his self-imposed exile in Japan to return to Peru as a candidate for the presidency in the 2006 elections. Following a prolonged extradition process he was sent to Peru in 2007 to face trial on charges involving his complicity in human rights violations and corruption during his presidency. This marked the first time in Peru's history that a former president was put on trial for criminal activities carried out during his government. Convicted of abuse of authority in December 2007, Fujimori was sentenced to six years in prison. Beginning in 2008 he stood trial for the most serious human rights violations, including crimes against humanity stemming from the activities of the paramilitary organization Grupo Colina and illegal detentions, as well as bribery and embezzlement charges. The trial itself was hailed for the professionalism of the judges and as an indication of institutional improvements in the judicial system. In April 2009, the Supreme Court convicted Fujimori of human rights abuses, sentencing him to 25 years in prison.

As Fujimori's extradition and trial proceeded, the new government of Alan García Perez showed little inclination to support broader investigations. Indeed, President García announced that the government would provide lawyers to defend former military officials accused of human rights violations, and investigations of human rights organizations were opened. At the same time, support for Fujimori in public opinion polls rose; a not surprising outcome given that many Peruvians identify him as the president who "defeated terrorism." With a fragmented Congress, pro-Fujimori parties were often courted by others, including members of the PPC and the ruling APRA Party. It is clear that political figures linked to Fujimori will continue to play a role in Peruvian politics in the coming years and his legacy will continue to influence political debates.

Midway through his presidency, Alan García faced rising social protests, corruption scandals, and declining approval ratings. With 9.8 percent growth in 2008, Peru achieved the fastest growth rate in 14 years, propelled by rising commodity prices. However, social protests lead by unions, regional movements, and peasant communities have centered on what was widely seen as a lack of effort to reduce poverty and distribute the benefits of growth equitably. The pattern of commodity export-based growth combined with persistent social inequities characterized the Toledo, and until now, the García administrations. This pattern helps explain the continued political divisions that have developed between the Andean departments and Lima, stoking resentment over the limited benefits received from the export boom. During an October 2008 cabinet reshuffle, President García appeared to recognize these trends in appointing Yehude Simón as Prime Minister. Simón spent time in prison during the Fujimori regime for alleged ties to the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA) insurgency and has strong ties to regional based movements. The difficulties in promoting greater efficiencies and social equity are nonetheless significant and include deep rooted clientelism among political parties, a lack of accountability and transparency in the public sector, and ethnic and regional cleavages.

Even as efforts to strengthen democratic norms and institutions at a national level face continued difficulties, there is much ferment at the local and regional level. No fewer than seven of the works under review examine new forms of local participation or decentralization policies. Both Avila and Panfichi and Dammert analyze the Mesas de Concertación, or committees to foster dialogue among local actors, noting the possibilities for overcoming socioeconomic barriers while questioning the ultimate impact on policy (items #bi2005004676# and #bi2008000942#). On the other hand, Arroyo and Democracia participativa en los Andes examine ways municipalities have used decentralization processes to increase citizen participation (items #bi2008000846# and #bi2008000848#). Together, these and other studies suggest innovation at the local level aimed at enhancing democratic participation. But as many of the essays in Zarate point out, this is neither easy nor without problems, especially when these efforts are only loosely connected to the institutions of representative democracy (item #bi2009001796#).

Efforts to foster democratic norms in Peru continue to confront several authoritarian legacies from the Fujimori administration. Boesten discusses the ways by which the population policies of Fujimori targeted poor indigenous women, reinforcing racial and gender stereotypes (item #bi2008002591#). Burt ascribes the weakness of civil society to the intimidation and social control of the regime, while Uceda offers extensive evidence of the Fujimori regime's complicity in human rights violations (items #bi2007000400# and #bi2008000850#). Durand focuses on the responsibility of the business sector in perpetuating the regime, given its emphasis on promoting its sectoral interests over other values (item #bi2008002814#). Two works offer fresh perspectives centered on institutional factors in the rise of Fujimori. Murakami argues that the pre-existing authoritarian structure of institutions paved the way for Fujimori, an analysis centered on the historical determinism of authoritarian caudillos in Peru (item #bi2008000827#). By contrast, Dietz and Myers focus more specifically on party system collapse as a reason for the rise of Fujimori, comparing Peru's collapse to a similar dynamic in Venezuela (item #bi2008003041#).

There are now several new works examining the post-Fujimori period, particularly aspects of the Toledo administration (2001–2006) and the 2006 presidential elections. Basombrio and Rospigliosi offer an overview of security policies of the Toledo period, noting the intense efforts to reform the police, the military, and intelligence agencies (item #bi2008000833#). Cornejo Ramírez and Ferrero Costa provide general political analyses of the period, while Lewis analyzes what he sees as significant political learning on the part of a political elite intent on not repeating the mistakes of the 1980s (items #bi2008000843# and #bi2008000837#). Durand and Godard review the demographic breakdown of the 2006 elections and Elecciones 2006 en el Perú reviews the role of women as both voters and candidates in the 2006 campaign (items #bi2008002814# and #bi2008000840#). McClintock offers an overview of the electoral dynamics at work, particularly the rise of Ollanta Humala (item #bi2009001781#).

Finally, the last several years have seen important new sources of information on Peruvian politics accessible through the web, which are reviewed in the annotations. For example, some data and official documents from ministries, state agencies, and local and regional governments are all accessible via the Portal del Estado Peruano (item #bi2009004842#). Among NGOs, the defense portal Defensa y Reforma Militar offers a comprehensive review of civil-military relations and related issues, while the website of the Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos provides information on human rights issues (items #bi2009004816# and #bi2009004821#).


Go to the:


Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (7/16/14)