Peru’s Constitutional Crisis Cuts Deep Due to Endemic Corruption

October 11, 2019

The standoff between Peru's president and its legislature has found a temporary resolution, but the corruption crisis continues and the left might be able to take advantage of the situation.

The standoff between Peru's president and its legislature has found a temporary resolution, but the corruption crisis continues and the left might be able to take advantage of the situation.


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Story Transcript

GREG WILPERT: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Greg Wilpert in Baltimore.

For almost a week, it was unclear who is in charge of the government of Peru. That is, last week Peru’s president, Martin Vizcarra, dissolved the Congress. However, the Congress, which is controlled by far right politician Keiko Fujimori, ignored the president’s order and voted to remove the president from office instead. The vice president was then supposed to take over, but she resigned. Ultimately, Vizcarra seems to have remained in office and has now called for new congressional elections to be held on January 26 of this year.

The conflict between Peru’s Congress and its president came to a head in the midst of numerous corruption investigations, which led a former President, Alan Garcia, to commit suicide shortly before his arrest and forced the previous president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, to resign. Opposition leader Keiko Fujimori herself, her father and former President Alberto Fujimori, and former President Alejandro Toledo have all served time in prison or are currently in prison. So what is going on in Peru? Is it a fight among the country’s elite or is it a struggle to rid the country of corruption, as President Vizcarra says?

Joining me now to explore this is Gerardo Renique. Gerardo is professor of history at the City College at University of New York and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal NACLA. Also, he is the co-author with Deborah Poole of the book Peru: Time of Fear. Thanks for joining us again, Gerardo.

GERARDO RENIQUE: Hi, Greg. With pleasure.

GREG WILPERT: So let’s tackle this first question that I mentioned in my introduction. Is this a fight among Peru’s elite; between the neoliberal right represented by Vizcarra and the far right represented by Fujimori, or is this a fight to purge corruption? Or what’s going on?

GERARDO RENIQUE: Basically, first what I think is that this conflict between the executive and the judicial and the legislative represents… It’s the tip of the iceberg of a deeper crisis, our crisis of neoliberal governability in Peru. I think it also marks the end of the political regime that was created after the fall of Fujimori. But it’s based on the constitution of 1993 that was written during the government of Fujimori. So what exists now, it’s a dispute. I mean, both the President Vizcarra and Congress, they share the same neoliberal strategy for the country. Both of them, there’s no difference in their economic and political strategies. The problem is that, as you mentioned it before, a large number of members of Congress, a large number of members of the judiciary have been implicated in these corruption cases.

You know that the most important one, as your listeners may be aware of, it’s the so called Car Wash Operation that involves this corruption of the other very large Brazilian construction company that as you mentioned in your opening remarks. So what we have here at stake is that President Vizcarra takes power after the resignation of President Kuczynski in March 2018, and at a moment that there is a massive mobilization in Peru, a massive mobilization against corruption cases. But what is going to galvanize anti-corruption and these broad mobilizations for democracy is corruption. It’s the amnesty that Precedent Kuczynski gave to former ruler Alberto Fujimori that was in jail for human rights abuses. So this galvanizes a very broad movement that’s very similar to what has existed in other parts of Latin America. Let’s get rid of all of them.

Prior to this anti-corruption mobilization, what we’ve seen since President Vizcarra took power, it’s a new wave of mobilizations against instructing these projects. There’s at the moment, there is a national, there’s a mobilization, at least in three major mining sites. It’s the case of TMI here in the Southern part of Brewer hole Valley, that is in apparently, they’re entering their fourth week of paralyzation protesting the expansion of a mining project. There’s the case of Las Bambas. This is a mining corridor in the high provinces of Cusco that at the moment have 10 or 11 communities relocating the road between the mines and the processing plants. We also have a renewed mobilization against the privatization of the water system in the city of Lima.

More importantly, the labor movement is coalescing around their rejection of a new labor code that was passed by and proposed by the Government of Vizcarra with the support of the National Confederation of Businessmen on an extremely draconian code law that particularly affects younger people, the people coming into the labor force. That created a very broad rejection in the country and a reactivation of a popular movement. So I would put the anti-corruption mobilization within this broader conflicted situation. So that’s the situation, and the closing has a very broad support of the population. According to the latest polls, it goes within 85% and 92%. So that’s the overall situation there.

Vizcarra is a very weak government as you mentioned before. He only has nine reliable supporters in Congress. The largest majority was controlled by Fujimori. Our new election I think will clean up the way to further, democratize the country. I don’t think it’s going to happen in this coming month. This coming month I think are going to be before the election are going to be extremely tense and the mobilization will continue. Their political activity is going to be dominated by the campaigns to the election. But hopefully, in my take is that the forces of the right and the forces of Fujimori are going to be severely punished in the next election and this offers a pretty good opportunity for the left and the mobile forces, hopefully to obtain a good vote in the next election in January.

GREG WILPERT: Well, that’s exactly what I wanted to turn to actually next. I mean, a number of analysts have said that the left might actually have an opportunity now. And in the last election, the left under Veronica Mendoza almost made it into the runoff. But she only got 19% of the vote. Kuczynski got something like 21%, who ended up winning in the second round. Now, what is a Peru’s left doing at the moment? and how do you see their chances in terms of making electoral gains in January, assuming that that’s when the elections will actually take place?

GERARDO RENIQUE: OK. First of all, I think that this particular moment offers a very good possibility for the left to obtain a very good result. The left has played–both in Parliament and in the streets–a very important role in all of these campaigns and mobilizations against corruption. And on the other hand, the Peruvian left–it’s the case of the left in many other countries in Latin America–is very divided. So in the last month and around these campaigns, there’s definite coalescence and agreements between, the most important groups in the left, and it seems that they’re going to participate in a united front. On other hand, the popular movements are widespread in the country, but they’re not centralized. They’re divided by region and by sectors. They’re coalescing around something that is called the Popular National Assembly.

And the conversations between these grouping of social movements; labor organizations, peasant organizations. These different sectors in the left hopefully could manage to present a united front in the upcoming election. If that’s the case, I think that the left has very good possibilities. Because what you need to take in account is that it is contained, and the majority of the population in Peru and the frustration with the elected officials includes also the people in the left. But again, I think that if the left keeps in this path of working together, putting their differences aside and managing to establish pretty good relations with the popular movement, they have very good possibilities of obtaining a good result in the next set of elections.

GREG WILPERT: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s an interesting situation. And Peru in some ways might be comparable to Columbia, where the left never really won mainly because of the guerilla battles that took place back in the 1970s and 80s that basically any allowed the government to repress the left; even the non-guerilla left, the non-fighting left. But that’s something important to keep in mind, I guess. But actually, I want to move on to the other question; the other important players seem to be the military and the judiciary. Now, what role are they playing at the moment?

GERARDO RENIQUE: Well, the military are supporting the Government of Vizcarra. And a few hours after Vizcarra dissolved the Congress, the high rank officers, both in the military and the police, came to the National Palace to show their support to Vizcarra. I think the military are going to play a very conscious role in this. I think they’re going to support the president. Because again, the difference between the right-wing represented by the forces in Congress, particularly for Fukimoristas, they sort of represent–you use the term ultra-right. It’s a very interesting coalition of two sectors, very conservative.

They are oligarchic right that have some representatives in Congress; good allies of the Fukimoristas, as is the case in Brazil or in other places in Central America, particularly this new fundamentalist Christian right. Extremely conservative, extremely reactionary. And on the other hand, the Fukimorismo and the party of Keiko Fujimori, they represent what I describe as a new bourgeoise. It’s a new class of businessmen and politicians that have emerged on the fringes in the shadow of neoliberal reforms. Their political behavior and their way of doing business resembles more a mafia kind of operation than a well-established bourgeois business class. So that’s the difference. And on the other hand, the big business class have relied on the Fukimoristas to push for the more draconian, for the more neoliberal projects and legislation. But at this moment, the business class, in the last week they’ve seen that Vizcarra has the upper hand. They are appearing to push him, Vizcarra, into taking more seriously their proposals.

So this is going to be interesting. You are going to see what happens in the next month. On the other hand, Vizcarra is getting the fact that he doesn’t have that much political support and now is embarking in this move to reform–to democratize–the judiciary, his only support this in the population. So I think he’s going to be very hesitant in pushing for further proposals or suggestions from the business class. So this is going to be a very tricky situation. And the judiciary, I think, at the moment they’re on the defensive, many of them. The most current members of the judiciary were already fired by Vizcarra last year when he proposed a reform of the judiciary. Some of them now have escaped the country. They have trials pending with charges against them for corruption. So I think the judiciary is pretty severity damaged by these last reforms. And we’re going to see what happens hopefully, with the next Congress. It’s going to be a clearer mandate to keep the reform of the judiciary and the cleaning up of the judiciary.

But I think that’s going to be a very tricky business. Because on the other hand, another element that I haven’t mentioned, but it’s important; the judiciary is also infiltrated by the elements of the network of former intelligence service that were planted in there by Montesinos and Fujimori that act as mercenaries. They offer their service to the one that gives basically more money. Many of those connections are still present. Many of those operatives that work for Montesinos or Fujimori operate as independent consultants or operators for political forces or for the business class. So that complicated situation, that’s part of the legacy of Fujimori; of the Fujimori regime. The elements of the intelligence service that he left infiltrated particularly the judiciary.

GREG WILPERT: We’re going to have to leave it there. But we’re going to continue to follow the situation in Peru as it develops, especially leading up to possible elections in January. I was talking to Gerardo Renique, professor of history at the City College at the University of New York. Thanks again, Gerardo, for having joined us today.

GERARDO RENIQUE: Thanks to you, Greg. Have a nice day. Bye.

GREG WILPERT: And thank you for joining The Real News Network.

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