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Post Protests, Presidential Drama in Peru
Created by John Eipper on 01/24/23 3:20 AM

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Protests, Presidential Drama in Peru (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 01/24/23 3:20 am)

After the removal of ex-president Pedro Castillo in Peru a few weeks ago, riots and public protests in that country have continued and caused almost 50 fatalities. This situation has forced the government to declare a state of emergency, suspending constitutional rights such as freedom of movement and assembly.

There are many questions regarding those events, and the answers are unknown to most of those interested in Peru and Hispanic America in general. To answer these questions it's better to point out some aspects to understand the context.

First of all, it should be noted that in the last five years Peru has had six presidents (Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Martín Vizcarra, Manuel Merino, Francisco Sagasti, Pedro Castillo and Dina Boluarte).

A somewhat unusual fact in a democratic country where presidential terms are for five years, with no possibility of re-election. All presidents have been removed from office by the Peruvian Congress, for various reasons of corruption or for "vacancy," an ambiguous concept by which the Peruvian constitution grants congress the possibility of removing a president for insanity, sickness, moral or ethical reasons or corruption, with only 66% of the votes, a relatively low number for such a significant measure. In any case these removals are surely justified by the level of corruption in the institutions and especially in the country's presidency.

Corruption, understood as the misuse of public power in order to obtain an advantage or undue benefit for oneself or third parties, is common in a country where there are currently more than 27,000 open investigations, complaints and trials for this reason, and where 90% of municipal mayors are suspected of such crimes. That is, it affects all levels of public administration and is considered by the public to be the main problem in the country.

Explaining why there is apparently such a high level of corruption in Peruvian institutions is a social problem that overwhelms me, as well as being difficult to decipher and address in this space. However, it is possibly explained by the marked social and racial differences, poverty, "caudillismo," wardlordism, a culture of exploitation and the Creole "viveza," liveliness or mischief, a product of the need to survive and, in general, a lack of virtuous civic values in the society.

This power of congress, divided by adversarial political groups with sectarian interests, gives it power over the presidency like no other country in the region. It is precisely this institutional legal power that has served to remove the last presidents, which Congress has used before for obvious cases of corruption.

The presidency also has specific constitutional powers, allowing it to dissolve congress when it has failed to approve any law or budget twice in a row. That was the power Castillo tried to use incorrectly, and for this cause he was removed because he was accused of an attempted coup.

The current social conflict against President Boluarte and in support of the ousted President Castillo, requests immediate elections. Radical sectors of the left have managed to mobilize peasants and impoverished sectors in the south of the country. As Peruvian friends tell me, it is unlikely that the president will submit to these demands, especially since immediate elections would favor those radical left-wing groups that promote violence. In any case, it is difficult to predict the political and social future of the country, even if the current political leadership collapses, and another rises to the presidency. Regardless, the root causes of the problems in Peru persist.

The paradox is that despite this level of conflict, the economy has continued to grow due to constitutional norms and government policies reducing state intervention to a minimum. State institutions have been progressively weakened, to the point that only 21% of the population approves of them or their public management.

JE comments:  Nacho, always appreciate your updates on Latin America.  Peru must have broken the all-time record for "Palace to Prison" presidential politics.  (Sheesh, that's a lot of Ps.)  Some weeks ago we observed that Castillo is doing time in the same jail as his predecessor Alberto Fujimori.  The elderly Kuczynski is under house arrest, Alejandro Toledo is in US custody awaiting extradition--and that's just off the top of my head.

You would think that any future president would get the message, and keep his or her hands out of the till. But the question remains:  why are some societies plagued by corruption?  And in Peru, if you fight corruption too much and against the wrong people, Congress will probably fire you.

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