Tag Archives: peru

Opponents force PPK to consider pardoning former dictator Alberto Fujimori

Peru’s president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski risks stalemate without the support of the Peruvian congress. (Facebook)

Every Peruvian president comes into office a lame duck.

Such are the drawbacks to a system designed to prevent presidents from seeking reelection. Each president has five years — at least by the standards of recent history (and with the exception of Alberto Fujimori, the authoritarian who ran Peru from 1990 to 2000).

That was always likely to be the fate of the 78-year-old Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who came into office at the end of a long career in both domestic politics and international economics and whose chief political skill was not being related to Fujimori.

But PKK (he’s known universally by his initials) only unexpectedly won the presidency last June. Investors cheered his narrow victory over Keiko Fujimori, the former president’s daughter, who waged an economically populist and right-wing campaign in her second attempt at the presidency.

But to what end?

With no working majority in Peru’s Congress, Kuczynski now faces a tough choice: cave in to political opponents to pardon the Fujimori (also 78 years old) on ‘humanitarian grounds’ or face four more years of gridlock. Plans for reforms to tackle institutional corruption and spur the flagging economy would come to naught.

Keiko Fujimori dominated the first round of last year’s presidential election. PPK, a former World Bank economist and Wall Street banker, narrowly made it into the presidential runoff last year, winning nearly one-half the votes that she did. He only narrowly eclipsed rising star Verónika Mendoza, a left-wing figure who won widespread support in the Peruvian south. An even more popular former official, Julio Guzmán, was disqualified under sketchy circumstances. PPK won the runoff by the narrowest of margins as the anti-Fujimori forces coalesced around his candidacy.

But with nearly 40% of the first-round vote, Fujimori’s showing was easily strong enough to win control of the unicameral, 130-seat Peruvian Congress, which was elected simultaneously in last year’s first round. Her party, Fuerza Popular (FP, Popular Force), holds 72 seats, an outright majority. By contrast, the fledgling movement formed in favor of PPK, the cheekily named Peruanos Por el Kambio (Peruvians for Change) holds only 17 seats, behind Mendoza’s socialist Frente Amplio (Broad Front), which holds 20.

It’s an unprecedentedly weak position for a sitting president. After the 2011 election, leftist president Ollanta Humala controlled 47 seats, the largest congressional bloc (if still a minority). Even in 2006, president Alan García’s APRA managed to win 36 seat, the second-largest bloc after Humala’s forces. Continue reading Opponents force PPK to consider pardoning former dictator Alberto Fujimori

PPK on track to win Peruvian presidency by a narrow margin

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski appears headed to a narrow victory in Peru's presidential race. (Facebook)
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski appears headed to a narrow victory in Peru’s presidential race. (Facebook)

For the second time in as many elections, it’s looking like Keiko Fujimori will narrowly lose a runoff to become Peru’s president.Peru Flag Icon

With nearly 93% of the results counted, Fujimori was trailing behind economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the 77-year-old former banker and International Monetary Fund official who served briefly as prime minister in the 2000s. Kuczynski, widely known across Peru by his initials, ‘PPK,’ was winning 50.32% of the vote to just 49.68% for Fujimori.

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RELATED: PPK has chance to unite anti-Fujimori voters in June runoff

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Though we do not know the exact results, and we might not know them until later today or this week, all signs point to a narrow victory for PPK, who placed third in the 2011 presidential election (behind Fujimori) and who trailed Fujimori by double digits in the initial April vote. Indeed, for years, the 2016 election seemed like it was Fujimori’s to lose. Kuczynski, an internationalist who seemed more at home in Washington, D.C. than in the Andean highlands, is not exactly a natural on the campaign trail. He took an incomprehensible break from the runoff campaign to visit New York (where he attended his daughter’s graducation, but where he also gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, feeding the hype that he’s not ‘authentically’ Peruvian).

I hope that Suffragio will feature a guest post on the Peruvian election later this week. But in the meanwhile, here are some quick thoughts on what a PPK victory would mean for Peru.  Continue reading PPK on track to win Peruvian presidency by a narrow margin

PPK has chance to unite anti-Fujimori voters in June runoff

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who narrowly fell short of the 2011 presidential runoff, could win Peru's presidency in July. (Facebook)
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who narrowly fell short of the 2011 presidential runoff, could win Peru’s presidency in July. (Facebook)

For Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the hardest part of Peru’s two-stage presidential election might be making it into June’s runoff. Peru Flag Icon

It was no surprise that Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, a controversial figure now serving a prison sentence for human rights abuses during his time in office from 1990 to 2000, would win the first round of the election on Sunday.

Quick counts and initial results show that Fujimori, as predicted, easily won the first round with around 39.5% of the vote.

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RELATED: Fujimori’s daughter leads as
Peru faces June presidential runoff

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Kuczynski, nearly universally known as ‘PPK’ in Peru, was winning around 23.7% of the vote, enough to edge out the third-placed candidate, left-wing Verónika Mendoza, who was winning around 17.1% of the vote.

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The results all but assure that Kuczynski will emerge as Fujimori’s challenger in the June 5 runoff — a choice that many Peruvians wanted in the 2011 election.

Five years ago, it was leftist Ollanta Humala who won the first round, while Fujimori placed second, eliminating Kuczynski from the runoff in what many voters considered a worst-case scenario. On one hand, they could support a former army officer with a spotty military record and with ties to the radical left; on the other hand, the daughter of an anti-democratic authoritarian.

PPK’s apparent victory over Mendoza this year means that the 2016 runoff will be far less ideological than the 2011 runoff, instead featuring two candidates who espouse the kind of orthodox economic views that have dominated Peruvian governance since since the 1990s (even, perhaps surprisingly, during the Humala administration).

One of the central policies of Keiko Fujimori’s campaign has been a promise to use some of Peru’s $8 billion ‘rainy-day’ fund to stimulate spending on infrastructure and other projects to develop rural Peru. That means she will, on economic matters at least, be running to the left of PPK, who has called for budget discipline and pro-business policies that include a modest sales tax cut. Both candidates have signaled that they want to curb Peru’s growing coca production, and both candidates want to work to give local communities a greater share of profits from gold and copper mining that have boosted the Peruvian economy.

Polls show that the runoff will be competitive, despite Fujimori’s wide first-round victory. An average of four polls conducted in April before Sunday’s first-round voting gave Fujimori a statistically insignificant lead of 41.6% to 39.8%. Continue reading PPK has chance to unite anti-Fujimori voters in June runoff

Fujimori’s daughter leads as Peru faces June presidential runoff

Keiko Fujimori is set to win with ease the first round of Peru's presidential election on Sunday. (Facebook)
Keiko Fujimori is set to win with ease the first round of Peru’s presidential election on Sunday. (Facebook)

In 2011, Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa famously compared the choice his country’s electorate faced as a choice between AIDS and cancer.Peru Flag Icon

Five years later, one of those choices from that election, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Peru’s former authoritarian president (now serving in prison for corruption), now leads the country’s April 10 vote by double digits. Ollanta Humala, who defeated Fujimori five years ago, once feared as a militarist left-wing firebrand and a chavismo sympathizer, is leaving office widely derived and haunted by corruption, even after hewing to a middle-road path.

Though Humala will step down with as poor of an approval rating as his most recent predecessors, the biggest surprise of his presidency is that he ultimately chose to follow a center-right, business-friendly path in line with the past two decades of Peruvian governance. Humala will leave office, to the dismay of his one-time left-wing supporters, as a defender of neoliberal economics who stood, often with the force of Peru’s military, against striking workers and miners across the country. Though Humala himself is a former army officer, he failed to contain the growth of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), a Maoist guerrilla operation that’s made modest gains in southern Peru over Humala’s administration, despite its near eradication a generation ago.

As of February, Humala has also been implicated in Brazil’s widening corruption inquiry, amid allegations from Brazilian police that Humala may have taken bribes from Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction firm. His wife, Nadine Heredia, who once harbored ambitions of succeeding Humala herself, is also under investigation for corruption.

It’s no wonder that, once again, in an election year, Peruvians are looking for a change.

A referendum on a father’s complex legacy

Fujimori, for her part, has positioned herself well since the last election. The frontrunner to win Sunday’s presidential, she is nevertheless unlikely to secure the presidency outright. More likely, Fujimori will face the second-placed candidate in a June 5 runoff.

Still, the prospect of an easy double-digit win for Fujimori spawned a wave of popular protest across the country this week, a sign of the tumult that might follow in the two-month runoff campaign as anti-Fujimori forces coalesce behind a single challenger. Nearly 30,000 flooded the streets of Lima, Peru’s capital, earlier this week in opposition to her candidacy. Protesters worry that a Fujimori victory (either now or in June) will restore the same authoritarianism and corruption that marked the decade of rule under her father, Alberto Fujimori, between 1990 and 2000.

Despite Keiko’s best efforts, the June runoff is likely to become a referendum on her father’s legacy.
Continue reading Fujimori’s daughter leads as Peru faces June presidential runoff

16 in 2016: Sixteen global elections to watch in 2016


Of the most important elections in 2015, it’s a safe bet to argue that three of them took place in Greece: the January parliamentary elections, one insane roller-coaster of a referendum in July and another snap parliamentary vote again in September.

So what is the world to do in 2016, when no one expects Greeks to return to the polls? (Though, Athens being Athens, it’s impossible to rule the possibility out.)

Fear not. The new year will bring with it a fresh schedule of exciting elections on all seven continents, including in the United States, which after a marathon pair of primary campaigns, will finally choose the country’s 45th president in November 2016.

But following American politics only begins to scratch the surface.

At least two world leaders in 2016 will put ballot questions to voters  that could make or break their careers (and legacies).

New governments could emerge from elections in Taiwan, the Philippines, Morocco, Georgia, Peru, Jamaica, Ghana, Zambia and Australia.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy will either advance or flame out in his bid for a French political comeback in 2016.

Semi-autocratic leaders in Russia, Uganda, Congo and Vietnam will seek endorsements from their voters while hoping that the veneer of elections doesn’t unleash popular protest.

An opaque series of votes in Iran could determine the country’s future Supreme Leader.

A mayoral election in London (and regional elections outside England) could reshuffle British politics with an even more important vote on the horizon in 2017.

One very special election could change the international agenda of world peace and global security altogether.

Without further ado, here is Suffragio‘s guide to the top 16 elections to watch in 2016. After a short break in the new year, your attention should turn to the South China Sea… Continue reading 16 in 2016: Sixteen global elections to watch in 2016

Humala’s popularity sinks as Peru gets 7th PM in four years


It’s become a political law of gravity in Peru in the past 15 years that the popularity of its elected presidents drops as each five-year term ends.Peru Flag Icon

That’s irrelevant for the current president, Ollanta Humala, since Peruvian presidents aren’t eligible for reelection to two consecutive terms. But a week after opposition parties in Peru’s Congreso de la República (Congress of the Republic) forced Humala’s prime minister Ana Jara to step down amid a internal spying scandal, Humala was obligated to appoint the seventh prime minister of his administration.

Although the Peruvian president functions both as head of state and head of government, the prime minister heads the executive cabinet, and the appointment of Pedro Cateriano launched yet another reshuffle in the Humala administration as voters seem to be souring on Humala in the fourth of his five-year term. The Congress voted on March 30 to censure Jara in relation to allegations that Peru’s intelligence agency, the Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia (DINI), was spying on opposition politicians, journalists and businessmen.

Despite fears during the 2011 election that Humala, a leftist and former army officer, would lead Peru in a populist direction in the manner of socialist governments in Ecuador, Cuba and Venezuela, Humala instead pursued the same liberal, pro-market economic policies of all Peruvian administrations since the 1990s. Nevertheless, as  commodities prices drop, GDP growth projections are falling in a country where gold, zinc and copper mining undergirded some of the fastest economic growth in the world throughout the 2000s. It’s the same problem that Chile, Peru’s Pacific neighbor to the south and also a prolific copper exporter, is facing. The difference is that GDP per capita is just over twice as high in Chile as in Peru, a country of just over 31 million that is still struggling to rise to the same level of development as Chile, Mexico and other leaders in Latin America. Nevertheless, Humala failed earlier this year to implement even a watered-down labor market reform designed to make it easier for young graduates to find work.

With growth forecasts slowing, however, it’s not enough that Humala has pursued continuity in economic policymaking. His failure to reform Peru’s economy, combined with an expected slowdown (if not an outright recession), will make it difficult for Humala’s allies to maintain power in 2016. In Peru, a country without firmly settled political parties, however, it’s a question whether Humala is still a man of the political left. Though liberal reformers believe Humala’s accomplishments are tepid, he’s now closer to Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa than the traditional left. For example, Humala has struggled throughout his administration to respond to the economic, labor rights and environmental complaints of Peru’s mining workers.

Gana Perú (Peru Wins), the leftist electoral coalition that formed to support Humala’s candidacy in 2011, claims that it will still field a candidate in the upcoming 2016 vote. The party remains the largest bloc in the unicameral Congress, having won 47 out of 130 seats at the last election. That number, however, has fallen due to defections over the years. Humala’s wife, Nadine Heredia, was forced to disavow any presidential ambitions in the middle of her husband’s term, and any majestic hopes evaporated with fresh allegations in February of corruption and money laundering, a familiar refrain in a country where former president Alejandro Toledo is also under a cloud of suspicion for corruption and may yet face criminal charges. Humala’s popular former interior minister, Daniel Urresti, was forced to resign in February after his indictment for the murder of Hugo Bustios in 1988 when Urresti was involved in the fight against Senedero Luminoso (Shining Path).

That means that the leaders in the 2016 field, for now, are the runners-up to Humala from the 2011 field. Polls today show that Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, leads the field, followed in second place by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a liberal who served as a former prime minister and economy minister. Fujimori’s candidacy was controversial in 2011 because of fears that she would pardon her father, who remains in prison on human rights abuses, potentially undermining the rule of law and encouraging impunity in the future. Humala has consistently refused to release Fujimori from prison, and the former dictator’s health has declined so much that the pardon issue may lack the same relevance in 2016. Proving the rule of the lingering unpopularity of Peruvian presidents, both Toledo and former president Alan García poll far behind. Fujimori’s record is still controversial in Peru, where supporters believe his economic reforms put Peru on the path to stable inflation and GDP growth and opponents point to his disrespect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. His daughter, Keiko Fujimori, seems more committed to democratic Peru, though her frontrunner status in 2016 means that Peruvians could spend more time hand-wringing about the past than envisioning the future.

One possibility is Luis Castañeda, who returned to the mayor’s office in Lima last October and who has already run for the Peruvian presidency twice. The pragmatism and pro-development agenda of his first two terms as mayor between 2003 and 2010, appealed to the Peruvian business community. So far, however, Castañeda has spent much of his third term seemingly engaged in settling scores with his immediate predecessor, the more leftist Susana Villarán, instead of establishing a platform for a third presidential campaign in 2016.

ESSAY: How Gabriel García Márquez introduced me to Latin America


Whenever I go to México City, I marvel at the way its indigenous history integrates into the fabric of the city. Nahuatl words, like ‘Chapultepec,’ meaning grasshopper, and ‘Xochimilco,’ a neighborhood featuring a series of Aztec-created canals, pepper the geography of the city. Those are just two of hundreds of daily reminders rooting Latin America’s largest modern megapolis of 8.9 million in the language and traditions of its pre-Columbian past. It’s where the Virgin of Guadalupe, a young Nahuatl-speaking girl, apparently revealed herself to Juan Diego in 1531 as the Virgin Mary, instructing him to build a church, launching one of the most compelling hybrid religious followings in the New World. Even the inhabitants of the notorious Tepito barrio worship Santa Muerte on the first of November with bright flowers, cacophanous marimba and not a small amount of marijuana, in celebration of the magical chasm between what is, for many Tepito residents, a gritty life and an often grittier death.

It’s the way that México City blends the mysterious and the mundane, matches the sacred with the profane and so blends the line between the indigenous and conquistador that it’s hard to know who conquered what. For all of those reasons, I often think of it as the unofficial capital of realismo magico.

So it’s natural to me that the literary master of magical realism, Gabriel García Márquez, made his home in México City for much of the last six decades of his life. It’s also where García Márquez died on April 17 at age 87.

It was his uncanny ability to blend the realistic with the magical that largely won him such adoration worldwide. But what makes the writing of García Márquez and the other authors of the 1960s Latin American Boom so electrifying to me is the way that it blended the literary with the political. Certainly, García Márquez’s writing was about family, about love, about solitude, about power, about loss, about fragility, about all of these universal themes. But his writing also explicated many of the themes that we today associate with Latin America’s culture, identity, history and politics.

His death wasn’t entirely unexpected. García Márquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer all the way back in 1999 and by the beginning of the 2010s, he rarely made public appearances anymore due to the grim advance of Alzheimer’s disease. By the time I made it to Latin America for the first time, he was already approaching 80, and I knew I’d have little chance of meeting him.

That’s fine by me, because I always considered him, through his work, my own personal ambassador to Latin America. Over the course of several treks through Latin America, Gabo still accompanied me through his writing — and along the way, he shaped my own framework for how I think about Latin American life.

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(8) Going up the Argentine Andes 2

When I was planning my first trip to Latin America, I brought with me a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude. I saved the novel for this very occasion, a trek from Buenos Aires to Mendoza and then by bus over the Andes to Santiago. Technically speaking, I was on the wrong end of the continent for García Márquez. I packed some Neruda, some Allende and some Borges — and some Cortázar, too (mea culpa, I still haven’t clawed enough time to read Hopscotch).


Nevertheless, García Márquez’s words transcended the setting of his native Colombia. Hundred Years, published in 1967, just six years after the Cuban revolution that undeniably marked a turning point in its relationship with the behemoth world power to the north, it came at a time when Latin American identity seemed limitless, and García Márquez mined a new consciousness that wasn’t necessarily Colombian or even South American. So much of the story of Colombia’s development from the colonial era through the present day is also cognizably Bolivian, Chilean, Mexican or Argentinian. After all, García Márquez, already a well-known figure, went on a writing strike when Augusto Pinochet took power in Chile in 1973, ousting the democratically elected Socialist president Salvador Allende, who either committed suicide or was shot on September 11, the day of the coup.

It was an intoxicating read. The sleek brown corduroy blazer I picked up in Buenos Aires with the affected hint of epaulets on the shoulders soon became what I called my ‘Colonel Aureliano’ jacket. Besides, where better to buy a Spanish language copy of his work than El Ateneo, perhaps the most amazing bookstore in the world?


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Hundred Years, of course, came highly recommended from the world that had discovered García Márquez decades before I was even born. It became an instant hit upon publication, catapulting García Márquez’s popularity beyond his more established peers, including México’s Carlos Fuentes and Perú’s Mario Vargas Llosa.

Bill Clinton, in his autobiography My Life, confesses to zoning out of class one day in law school to finish it:  Continue reading ESSAY: How Gabriel García Márquez introduced me to Latin America

Will Venezuela or Argentina be the first to crumble into economic crisis?


I write tomorrow for The National Interest about the dual economic crises in Venezuela and Argentina.argentinaVenezuela Flag Icon

The similarities between the two economic crises are uncanny — inflation, capital controls, dollar shortages, overvalued currencies, shortages, etc.

But the similarities don’t stop there.  Both countries currently fee political limitations to force policy changes to avert crisis — and that limit the political capital of the leaders of both countries, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, to enact reforms:

Accordingly, normal political channels seem blocked through at least the end of 2015, despite the fact that both countries should be considering massive economic policy u-turns that will require significant amounts of political goodwill neither Maduro nor Fernández de Kirchner possess. But there’s an even greater inertia lurking beyond even the routine political impasse—a kind of political dead-hand control in both countries, on both a short-term and long-term basis.

First, both Venezuela and Argentina remain tethered to the political ideologies of chavismoand kirchnerismo, even though their proponents, Chávez and Néstor Kirchner, are now dead. Those policies may have worked over the last decade to achieve certain goals, including greater social welfare and poverty reduction in Venezuela and a rapid return to economic growth and competitive exports for Argentina. But it should be clear by now that chavismoand kirchnerismo are unable to provide answers to their respective countries’ economic woes today.

Even more broadly, I argue that beyond the shortcomings of chavismo and kirchnerismo, Venezuela faces a long-term resources curse and Argentina faces the long-term legacy of protectionism and statism of peronismo, which in each case underlie the current economic crises.  What’s more, the IMF-sponsored reforms in 1989 that led to the massive Caracazo riots in Venezuela and the IMF-approved lending tied to Argentina’s 1990s ‘convertibility’ crisis that led to the 1999-2001 peso crisis have undermined orthodox economic policymaking:

What’s more, ill-conceived attempts to rupture those dominant paradigms through orthodox ‘Washington consensus’ reform processes led to economic and political disaster. In both countries, leaders experimented with neoliberalism, facilitated by the misguided zeal of the International Monetary Fund, without enacting any corresponding safety nets or shock absorbers. The resulting crises led both countries to double down on their prevailing ideologies, thereby, ironically, making economic reform today even more difficult.

In both cases, the political, historical and economic legacies have prevented the broadly moderate, business-friendly, social democratic middle courses that much of the rest of South America has embraced to wide success, including Colombia, Peru, Chile, Brazil.

Democracy, participation, and discontent: a crisis of governance for Peru?


Guest post by Jacob Bathanti

July 28 marked Peru’s day of national independence, the centerpiece of a series of celebrations collectively known as Fiestas Patrias.  U.S. readers might imagine this extended holiday as a combination July 4, Thanksgiving, and Decoration Day (in its most tragic and most triumphant senses).Peru Flag Icon

It’s also the occasion for the sitting president to deliver a major policy address, more or less equivalent to the State of the Union.  In this year’s speech, Peru’s president, Ollanta Humala, laid out an agenda which hit some nice notes, with the president focusing his attention on major themes of anti-corruption and social inclusion, with the latter to come both through social programs and through market-oriented growth.

There were few real details, and accordingly some commentators castigated the president for failing to concretely attend to major issues, such as citizen security, which are on many Peruvians’ minds.  Still, Humala is on message: in none of his vagueness did he depart from the key pieces of his overarching double-barreled agenda: pursuing economic growth while ensuring that no one is left behind. Not a bit of what he said in his address was unexpected.

This all sounds innocuous enough, but the political context is more fraught than all that.  Dealmaking among administration insiders and poorly handled attempts to rationalize the state bureaucracy have recently drawn very visible protests from young people, state employees, and the urban professional classes. And so it was that the most interesting part of Humala’s speech, as Rosario Yori has noted, came at the very end of the discourse.  That’s when Humala implicitly conceded that not everyone is happy with his administration, or his plans for transforming Peru; when he acknowledged, however obliquely, that the road toward “La gran transformacion” will not be without twists and turns; when he conceded that he is aware that his program runs the risk of being derailed by its supposed beneficiaries:

…in seeming recognition of the crowds gathered in protest outside of Congress, Humala ended his speech with a message to Peruvians. “I urge you to maintain your vigilance and capacity for indignation to prevent corruption, injustice and discrimination. My promise is to work with you and listen to your demands.”

It is a move not uncharacteristic of a president who has rhetorically embraced themes of popular participation without delivering concrete measures to drive forward a participatory agenda.  Even as Peru has seen an upsurge in in largely peaceful public demonstration, the Humala administration has asked demonstrators to ‘go home’; and even as municipalities have taken steps to push forward institutions of participatory democracy at the local level, the national administration stands accused of ignoring a pro-participation agenda at best, and of actively moving to neuter participatory institutions at worst.

This is problematic not merely from the standpoint of democracy theory. Peru’s conventional institutional framework is troubled, with weak and fragmented political parties, an unpopular Congress, and one of the least-trusted judiciaries in Latin America. I n this situation, Peru’s framework of participatory institutions – various arrangements that invite citizens to actively engage with political processes in a realm beyond simply voting and returning home to await the next electoral cycle – offers the best hope for a revitalization of the political scene.  But the Peruvian government has shown itself unprepared to take participatory institutions seriously.  This is a shame, because an injection of participatory democracy offers a chance to avert a crisis of governance, by fostering active citizenship to channel popular participation, and burgeoning discontent, in productive directions.

Below, I briefly lay out an institutional landscape in which local officials struggle with the implications of participatory democracy, and a landscape of contention in which protest movements are proliferating.  I then offer some suggestions for deepening Peru’s participatory institutions, expanding the substantive exercise of citizenship in ways that move beyond protest. Continue reading Democracy, participation, and discontent: a crisis of governance for Peru?

Is Peru’s Humala a modern-day Velasquista?


It hardly seems like Ollanta Humala has been Perú’s president for two years — it feels like yesterday when we were assessing Humala’s first year in office.Peru Flag Icon

Jacob Bathanti, a Latin American scholar who blogs occasionally from Lima, where he’s working this summer, considers the similarities between Humala (pictured above, right) and his leftist military predecessor Juan Velasco Alvarado (pictured above, left), and also to Fernando Belaúnde.  But he also places Humala within an even broader tradition — here, in one sentence, he’s encapsulated mainstream Peruvian policy from much of the past half-century:

Official Lima, in so many manifestations, has always seethed with anxiety over these people, what they might do next (when it isn’t ignoring them). Humala’s big idea seems to be to resist the temptation to ignore the highlands, to push a broad economic integration into the national prosperity, satisfying the economic needs of those most likely to revolt – because it is in their nature, because they are sick of poverty, because to revolt is unfortunately at the moment justified, heck, pick a reason – before they revolt again.

But with three years left to go in his presidential term, Humala remains in many ways a chimera whose once-leftist rhetoric has dissolved into a presidency that seems to have no prevailing ideology.  That’s why it’s so tantalizing to look back to the Velasco years as a template for what Humala may yet try to accomplish — will he take up Velasco’s primary cause of pushing the fruits of Perú’s economic boom further down to the country’s poorest citizens?  Perú is somewhat remarkable among Latin American countries in that party identification remains incredibly weak, there’s no strong center-left and center-right party as such, and leaders easily slip from left to right and back again.  Humala’s predecessors, Alan García and Alejandro Toledo, both had their fair share of chameleonic moments in public life.

What Jacob writes comes as close to articulating, in one sentence, Perú’s prevailing 21st century ideology as I’ve ever read, and it really applies to just about every government in recent Peruvian history, except perhaps two.  The first is García’s first presidency from 1985 to 1990, which was a hyperinflationary socialist economic disaster.  The second is the authoritarian presidency of Alberto Fujimori from 1990 to 2000, which began amid a low-grade civil war against the communist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path).

I find the comparison to Velasco particularly intriguing because it’s so rare that an army coup results in a leftist military-led government in Latin American history, and the similarities to Humala, the once-radical military man are simply too great to ignore.  In 2000, Humala led a short-lived anti-corruption revolt from within the military against Fujimori.  As it turns out, the revolt fizzled, Fujimori fled shortly thereafter and Humala was pardoned, but the similarities are hard to miss.  In the 2006 presidential campaign, Humala often cited Velasco as a political touchstone and even went so far as to say that his administration would finish the work that Velasco’s started.

Like Velasco and many before him, Humala is trapped between meeting the needs of a business elite that has kept GDP growth humming along (an elite that largely supported his opponent Keiko Fujimori in the June 2011 presidential race) and a restless majority still trapped in poverty (that largely placed its hopes in Humala).  The Peruvian economy is likely to dip to just 6% growth this year — still high, but troubled by slack Chinese growth, flat prices for gold, copper, oil and other commodities that comprise over two-thirds — but protests over Humala’s performance in office continue, and polls show that his popularity has declined from over 50% earlier this year to just 33% this summer.

But Humala has governed in a far different manner than Velasco on two of the most important matters of Peruvian governance — economic policy and foreign policy. Continue reading Is Peru’s Humala a modern-day Velasquista?

One year into the administration of Perú’s Ollanta Humala: a mixed bag

July 28 marked the one-year anniversary of Ollanta Humala (pictured above) as Perú’s new president — and it was marked by the appointment of Humala’s third prime minister since taking office.

The fear that many Peruvians had about Humala’s administration turned out to be a non-issue — whereas many Peruvians once feared that Humala would disrupt a decade-plus of staggering economic growth by turning Perú toward charisma nationalism.  Although the Peruvian economy keeps chugging along, however, social unrest has turned out to be a thornier problem for Humala.

The 2011 presidential campaign ended in a runoff between the two most polarizing candidates among five plausible presidents: the leftist Humala, the 2006 runner-up and a former Army officer, and Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, Perú’s president in the 1990s.  Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian Nobel laureate, famously compared the choice as being akin to terminal cancer and AIDS — despite reservations about Humala, Peruvians also worried that Fujimori would pardon her father, currently in prison for committing embezzlement and for committing human rights abuses during his time in office, unleashing demons from an era that many Peruvians would rather not revisit.

When Humala won by a 3% margin, however, he moved quickly to assure Peruvians that he wouldn’t disrupt the booming economy, promptly appointing as his finance minister Luis Miguel Castilla, a deputy finance minister from the previous administration of Alan García.  Far from nationalizing Peruvian industry, Humala has essentially left economic policy unchanged from his predecessors of the past decade.

Félix Jiménez, Humala’s top campaign economic adviser, who briefly served as a presidential economic adviser, left Humala’s government in January 2012, and has since criticized Humala for being too beholden to orthodox economic policy and Peruvian economic elites.  Another former adviser, Oscar Dancourt, a former acting Central Bank president, also left the administration.

Those resignations were also, in part, a response to a December reshuffle that brought Oscar Valdés — an army officer and former military colleague of Humala’s — to power as prime minister.  His appointment caused several prominent leaders, including former president Alejandro Toledo, to decry the growing militarization of the Humala administration.

Valdés’s resignation last week, and his replacement by Peruvian justice and human rights minister Juan Jiménez, seems calibrated to adjust to many of those criticisms, which are tied to some of Humala’s biggest problems.  Jiménez had increasingly become a key troubleshooter for Humala, especially in contrast to the increasingly unpopular Valdés.

Chief among those problems, however, are the protests that have emerged in the mostly-indigenous Cajamarca and surrounding region in the northern highlands (in South America, as far as culture goes, it is said that altitude often matters more than nationality, but that holds true for politics and economic policy as well). Continue reading One year into the administration of Perú’s Ollanta Humala: a mixed bag