Peru's new President Martin Vizcarra (R) is seen after taking the oath of office in Lima, Peru, on March 23, 2018.. Image: Xinhua/ANDINA/Andres Valle. PA Images, all rights reserved
On Thursday, March 22, the Peruvian parliament approved the resignation of president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who had been in office for twenty months after his victory, by just 41.057 votes, over Keiko Fujimori - the daughter and, above all, the political heir of dictator Alberto Fujimori - in the second round of the elections in 2016.
PPK, as we Peruvians call him, is a long-standing lobbyist used to going repeatedly, like a ping-pong ball, from business and finance to State institutions and back, and who became president because of the citizens’ active rejection of Fujimorism rather than his own merits. Even though in the last stage of the presidential campaign he distanced himself from Fujimorism, once in power he did not hesitate to bow at and hand over to it some important institutions - such as the tax superintendence and the Central Bank.
PPK's worst mistake was, undoubtedly, granting dictator Alberto Fujimori an illegal and immoral pardon.
None of this, however, quenched Keiko Fujimori's thirst for revenge and damper her eagerness to control the judiciary in order to manipulate its inquiries on her. But while the government and Fujimorism were publicly fighting each other, they were in fact agreeing on budget cuts in healthcare, education and public infrastructures - in short, on adjustment policies at the expense of citizens' rights.
PPK's worst mistake was, undoubtedly, granting dictator Alberto Fujimori an illegal and immoral pardon. Faced with a first attempt at removing him from office promoted by Keiko Fujimori, Kuczynski did not hesitate to make a deal with Keiko’s younger brother to secure enough votes in parliament to avoid impeachment - in exchange for the pardon.
Unlawfully releasing from jail a corrupt human rights violator who had not served his full sentence and had not even acknowledged his crimes was the beginning of the end for him. Thousands of citizens took to the streets against the pardon and PPK’s attitude. And this is how Alberto Fujimori turned into his main ally and Kenji Fujimori into his main political operator.
When the evidence of corruption - for financially advising private State contractors while being a cabinet minister - made his situation unsustainable and the majority of Peruvians were demanding his dismissal from office, he used his main ally’s mafia tactics: buying votes in Congress through perks, posts and public works contracts. The disclosure of these dealings, videotaped by Keiko Fujimori’s operators, was the straw that broke the camel's back: PPK was forced to resign and hand over control to his vice president.
This succession of events was nothing but the result of a structural problem. PPK was a dream come true for the economic power groups: he is one of their own, a shameless, unmasked neoliberal agent. And his fall into disrepute is not only due to his own mistakes, but to the fact that the power groups which supported him are equally affected.
Peru's system is enshrined in the Fujimorist Constitution of 1993 which has kept our democracy kidnapped by the power of money and the mafias.
As a consequence of the Lavajato scandal, not only are all the post-dictatorship presidents and the current Fujimorist candidate being prosecuted on corruption charges, but also the most distinguished business class representatives, such as those from the great construction companies linked to Odebrecht. Practically all the traditional political and business class is involved. This is no mere coincidence. It comes to prove the existence of a system which underlies and promotes widespread corruption. A system enshrined in the Fujimorist Constitution of 1993 which has kept our democracy kidnapped by the power of money and the mafias.
Today, in Peru, the State is has been pushed into a subsidiary role, incapable of planning or regulating; abusive monopolies and oligopolies have captured the market; healthcare and education are commodified; employment is precarious; nature-depredating extractivism keeps to its commodity exporting matrix and there is no diversification of production.
For years, this system has been operating through bribes, lobbies, election campaign millionaire funding, revolving doors and emergency decrees. If we do not change this system we are bound to repeat the same old story. After Alberto Fujimori’s fall, although corrupt officials and human rights violators were duly penalized in the ensuing democratic transition, the Fujimorist scaffolding was kept standing - and we can witness the consequences in the current crisis.
We cannot accept to just quickly turn the page, as those who feel they own the country want to do.
Today, we stand before a new historical opportunity to recover democracy and put it at the service of the people of Peru. A new democratic transition is needed to get on with that recovery, and we should start - at least – with electoral reform. This is why we cannot accept to just quickly turn the page, as those who feel they own the country want to do, so as to keep on conducting their business as usual, at the expense of the rights of the people, and on preserving their impunity.
Our precarious institutional framework is now broken and its legitimacy in shambles, and patches and wedges are no longer enough. It must be rebuilt on new foundations. From the political Left, we state therefore the need for a new political, social and civic foundational pact based on sovereignty, justice, equality and solidarity: a new Constitution for a new Peru. This is a task which requires broad debate and popular mobilization and organizing. This is what we are currently engaged in doing.