Crisis In The Andes

During the last few weeks, a crisis has erupted in the Andes. For 24 hours Peru had two presidents and currently has a dissolved congress. Ecuador, on the other hand, faced a set of violent riots with a regrettable and mortal response from the government of President Lenin Moreno.

On September 30th, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra took the decision of dissolving Congress after his proposition of amending the selection process of Constitutional Tribunal judges was denied for the second time. Vizcarra based his decision on the national Constitution and once the Congress was dissolved, he called parliamentary elections for next January. Following the above determination, the Parliament decided to suspend the President for 12 months and accordingly, administered the oath as acting President to Vice President Mercedes Aráoz. Although Vice President Aráoz quit the office 24 hours later, Peru had for a couple of days two presidents and a Congress which refused to accept its dissolution. Today (October 16th), Congress is dissolved, regardless of the opinion of some parliamentarians, and according to some legal experts, the suspension of Vizcarra was illegal. Consequently, while the Constitutional Tribunal decides whether the dissolution of Congress was legal, Vizcarra is performing command and administrative presidential functions without a fully legislative counterweight.

The crisis in Peru comes from a very long and confusing background; nonetheless, it may be traceable to 2 events. The first one relies on the figure of Alberto Fujimori, president of the country from 1990 to 2000 and today in prison for his involvement in two massacres. The second one is based on the corruption scheme surrounding the Brazilian corporation Odebrecht, which provoked the suicide of former president Alan García, the resignation and consequent detention of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the fleeing of ex-president Alejandro Toledo, the investigation of former President Ollanta Humala, and the incarceration of Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Alberto Fujimori and leader of the political party that delayed the proposition of current President Martín Vizcarra, which triggered the institutional crisis.

Despite the political turbulence described above, violence has not erupted in Peru and the crisis seems to be institutionally resolved. On the contrary, Ecuador is facing a situation not seen in a long time, where a mostly Indigenous movement has clashed with the law enforcement agencies, leaving at least 7 casualties, 1,152 arrests and 1,340 injured persons. The protests in Ecuador gained momentum when the administration of President Lenin Moreno implemented a set of economic measures including a rise in the price of fuel. The president argued that the petrol subsidy was disastrous for the economy and its removal would save 1,400 million dollars per year to Ecuador. On the other hand, the protesters, including unions, citizens and Indigenous organizations claim that the financial package sponsored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was detrimental for Ecuadorians, particularly to Indigenous peoples who would face a rise in their agricultural activities. The Indigenous peoples in Ecuador represent 25% of the population and embody 68% of the poor.

Quito was the centre of the protests for 11 days and the situation became so unstable that President Moreno had to move his office from the capital to Guayaquil. The streets of Quito literally became war zones as hundreds of protestors took to the streets and some stormed the Congress building. The response of the Government and the police was brutal, abusive and disproportional. Although the protests were vigorous and disruptive of the order (as all protests are and should be) the police actions, as human rights organizations declared, were brutal and excessive.

Finally, acknowledging the reasons of the protestors and recognizing their claims, on October 14, President Lenin Moreno revoked the act that aimed for the abolition of the fuel subsidy. The victory of the Indigenous peoples is not strange in Ecuador; in fact, the aboriginal organizations have already caused the ousting of three presidents; Abdalá Bucaram (1997), Jamil Mahuad (2000) and Lucio Gutiérrez (2005).