Another Peruvian leader has been accused of corruption. Alberto Fujimori, known to control with an “iron fist,” faces a 25-year sentence for charges of human rights abuse and ordering death squad killings during the Peruvian Civil War. Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori, is running in the 2021 presidential election, despite her own history of imprisonment and financial scandals. Fujimori has promised to pardon her father if elected.
The Peruvian Civil War began in 1980, when the Communist Party of Peru, also known as the Shining Path, refused to take part in the country’s newly resumed elections. Instead, the group initiated a guerilla war against the government. This which would rage for 20 years, only coming to a declared end in 2000, after Albert Fujimori resigned. However, the Shining Path’s mission to obliterate Peru’s political systems left a dent in the country’s political parties – and fuel was added to the fire when multiple former presidents became incriminated in graft scandals.
Peru’s leadership has been unsteady for the past several decades. Last year, the country’s legislature ousted President Martin Vizcarra after his attempts to dissolve Congress. Vizcarra was Peru’s vice president until his sudden surge to the presidency in March 2018, when former president Pablo Kuczynski’s various grift scandals surfaced and forced him to resign.
In 2016, a Brazilian construction company known as Odebrecht confessed in a leniency agreement to giving money to officials during the 2011 election. This uncovered possible money laundering, illicitly bought public works contracts, and bribery, involving Kuzcynski, Keiko Fujimori, Alan Garcia, Alejandro Toledo, and other political leaders suspected of being associated with the firm.
During his short time in office, Vizcarra was set on digging out the roots of Peru’s political tension, which has been raging since the Odebrecht scandal was uncovered. In an interview last November, Vizcarra pointed out that 68 current lawmakers were in the middle of their own trials over various financial allegations.
Keiko Fujimori, for example, is the leader of the conservative Popular Force party and currently places second for the 2021 presidential election. She is under investigation for $1.2 million she is alleged to have accepted from multiple companies, including Odebrecht. Manuel Merino, who took Vizcarra’s place and temporarily holds the president’s position, has been accused in the past of nepotism and allocating public funds to his family.
Despite authorities investigating their backgrounds, these leaders remain in their seats of power, continuing to make large decisions which affect political parties, policymaking, legislation, and more wide-ranging influences on Peruvians’ lives. Additionally, these remaining spheres of power may be working for their own personal benefit rather than for Peru’s people. Congress’s vote to oust Vizcarra was based on “permanent moral incapacity” and claims that his decision to dissolve the body was illegal. However, many of the former president’s decisions to change governmental systems and routines were made in order to fight corruption, including drafting legislation against grafting. Vizcarra also attempted to reconstruct the National Council of Magistrates, the group responsible for choosing Peru’s lawmakers. If these decisions had gone through, many officials’ power would have been stolen. Were the votes to remove Vizcarra made with Peruvians’ best interests at heart, or merely to save congressfolk’s careers?
Thousands marched down the streets the day after Vizcarra’s removal from office was announced, refusing to accept the new government. However, the future of their country’s political environment is not the only thing Peruvians have to fear. In 2003, shortly after the Civil War seemingly came to an end, Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee issued a document reporting that the internal conflict came to 70,000 total deaths. 37,800 – almost half – were at the hands of the Shining Path. And although the Shining Path’s numbers have substantially decreased, the organization continues to wreak havoc and terror across Peru. On May 27th, 2007, the Shining Path bombed the city of Juliaca, killing six and wounding 48. On April 9th, two years later, a clash between the group and the Peruvian military ended with 13 soldiers dead. In 2012, the Joint Command of the Armed Forces reported that, over the past four years, the Shining Path had killed 71 Peruvian security officers.
What can be done about this? As of now, the country is aware of hundreds of Shining Path members located in the jungle Valley of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers (abbreviated V.R.A.E.M.). The group continues to prosper through drug trafficking cocaine out of the area, while disrupting and threatening the lives of civilians living there. All previous encounters with police forces have been met with violent confrontation, maintaining the endless stalemate and failing to make significant changes. In order to diminish and eliminate the threat, the government must consider other approaches and make dismantling the Shining Path a higher priority.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, land in the V.R.A.E.M. contributes to 70% of Peru’s cocoa crops, most of these grown by the Shining Path. If the government prioritizes this area and its inhabitants, this could turn the V.R.A.E.M. into a habitable area, mitigate South America’s drug trafficking crisis, and stop the guerilla group from terrorizing the valley’s people.
The Peruvian election is to be concluded on April 11th, 2021. George Forsyth, a former goalkeeper and current mayor of the La Victoria District, leads the polls, with Keiko Fujimori falling closely behind. But no matter the election’s outcomes, Peru must make revisions at both its governmental and judicial levels. Vizcarra’s plans to fight political corruption reflected many Peruvians’ wishes. If the presidential position is to exist without scandals and fraud, then the systems which allow Congress, lawmakers, and other authorities to abuse their power must be removed from legislation.
Peruvians have been waiting for their leaders to protect them from corruption. This year’s election could be an opportunity to meet their wishes and make a difference. The final results will mark the country’s direction. Will Peru trudge deeper into political frailty, or begin the journey toward restoration?
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