According to the latest report by the Freedom House Index, Peru has successfully upgraded from a partly free country to a free one in 2022. These improvements are mainly due to the country’s ability to carry out an election for a new president and Congress which managed to ease political tensions in the short term. However, problems regarding fragility and rule of law in Peru have reappeared throughout the year, triggering the detention of Pedro Castillo, the Peruvian president, in December 2022.
Political fragmentation and corruption have severely damaged the public trust in the government, which is worsening the economic situation in the country. Peru was making a positive comeback from the crisis that the pandemic generated. However, recent political instability created a slowdown, which is having very negative consequences.
Political Instability in Peru
Back in 1992, former president Alberto Fujimori carried out a coup d’état which surprisingly increased his popularity and helped his reelection in 1995. Despite his third reelection in 2000, his numerous accusations of committing crimes against humanity, his atrocious sterilization policies and the cases of corruption and favoritism finally had consequences and Fujimori resigned from office and subsequently faced imprisonment.
An attempt to escape the Fujimori “dictatorship” has marked the political reforms that have taken place in Peru since the beginning of the 21st century. A closed and centralist political system that limited citizens’ participation apparently characterized the Fujimori era. Therefore, in order to “democratize” the electoral system, the reforms incentivized the creation of numerous informal political organizations which lacked institutionalization. This has led to the deficient functioning of the electoral system, due to the absence of stable, lasting and serious political parties and the consequent lack of confidence in the electoral system.
Six Presidents Since 2018
This situation has transformed the present Peruvian politics into a polarized arena that leaves little space for consensus and forces voters into extreme political ideologies in an attempt to achieve durable solutions. Since 2018, Peru has had six different presidents. This instability is due both to the political polarization that does not allow for a real absolute majority, as well as to the 1993 Constitution, which allows Congress to remove the president from office for “lack of morality.”
This peculiarity worsens the political fragility of the country, which has become even worse after the detention of Pedro Castillo for a failed coup d’état. The former president decided a coup d’état was his only way to escape his serious accusations of corruption. However, what happened is quite the opposite, because he now faces accusations of rebellion and could spend as long as 20 years in prison. Dina Boluarte has replaced Castillo, making her the first female president of Peru.
Corruption and Rule of Law
Added to the constant corruption of politicians, a corrupted judiciary often debilitates Peru’s well-functioning of democracy. Peru’s judiciary is one of the most corrupt institutions in the country, according to the Freedom House. This adds to the problem that the constant tensions generated between Congress and the Executive caused. In 2018, a huge corruption scandal emerged after audio recordings revealed Parliament members, business elites and members of the Magistrates Council as responsible for at least favor-trading activities. After this scandal, the country dissolved the Magistrates Council. Its new replacement is the National Board of Justice which focuses on a more transparent selection of members in an attempt to avoid future corruption.
Fragility and rule of law in Peru are major problems for certain groups of society. COVID-19 has brought clarity to the fact that indigenous Peruvians suffer discriminative treatment regarding health care. The country needs to urgently include health care policies that include indigenous groups in order to reduce inequalities in morbidity rates.
The Effects on Poverty and Job Creation
Peru is currently going through a political situation that threatens the country’s economy to fall into recession. The good news is that according to data from the Central Reserve Bank in Peru, in 2021, the country’s GDP grew by 13.2% and unemployment dropped from 7.2% in 2020 to 4.8% in 2021. Despite the economic collapse that the pandemic caused, it is true that Peru has recovered especially fast compared to other countries in Latin America. Therefore, the permanent political instability which causes constant changes in power positions and lack of reliability has a relatively low impact on the country’s economy. In fact, Peru is a rare case in Latin America because, despite the poor performance of the Executive, the economy has remained relatively strong throughout the years.
However, the apparent economic recovery has not been beneficial for all Peruvians. Unfortunately, Peru is the most food-insecure country in South America. More than half the population in Peru lives in a food insecure situation, double the amount compared to pre-pandemic figures. From these figures, more than 6 million people live in extreme conditions in which food is unavailable for days.
Having access to clean water is also a struggle for many Peruvians. Almost 8 million people in Peru have no access to drinking water. Peru is a country rich in water, however, its distribution is unfavorable for those who need it most. Those who do not have direct access to water receive it through tanker trucks for twice the price. This forces many families to ration water which often doesn’t meet the minimum sanitation standards, which can lead to major health problems.
The Protests and the Future of Fragility and Rule of Law in Peru
The country has yet to discover what to expect after the detention of Castillo. However, the country has already plunged into chaos which the protests caused. The protests originated as a result of built-up tension due to the executive’s inability to govern and the new presidency of Boluarte. Many citizens have rejected her because Peruvians did not elect her and are now demanding proper national elections.
The future will show the extent to which these developments have affected the Peruvian economy. What is certain is that such an unstable and changeable government is incapable of prioritizing the problems of the most vulnerable and that is something that has to change.
– Carla Tomas