[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]


Volume 63 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: PERU


PHILIP MAUCERI, Professor and Chair of Political Science, University of Northern Iowa

THE END OF THE AUTHORITARIAN GOVERNMENT of Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000) created much hope in Peru for a stronger and stable democracy. Yet the period since Fujimori's fall from power has witnessed continued social divisions, political infighting, corruption scandals, and limited institutional reforms. The release in 2003 of the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Peru's period of violence ultimately had little political impact, and was met with indifference or hostility by most key political actors. The one bright spot was the economy, which in four years during the Toledo administration had the highest GDP growth in Latin America, mostly due to growth in the mining and agribusiness sectors. Low inflation and rising tax revenue allowed the government to increase social spending, but the impact on poverty rates remains unclear.

Alejandro Toledo of the Perú Posible Party was elected president in 2001 in the second round against Alan García Pérez of the APRA Party, with 53 percent of the vote, promising economic and social reforms within a market economy. As the first elected president of Peru from an indigenous lower class background, he had very high support in Peru's Andean provinces. Meanwhile his experience in several international organizations and his technocratic training promised efficient management. But while his administration began with much promise, it was quickly mired in a series of personal scandals and corruption charges. Vice President Raúl Diez Canseco and several cabinet ministers were forced to resign. Moreover, the government's lack of a majority in the Congress stifled most of its legislative agenda. Beginning in 2002, the Maoist Shining Path began armed activity again. Though far more limited in scope than in the 1980s and early 1990s, the attacks, coupled with retrials of Shining Path leaders, including founder Abimael Guzmán, after Supreme Court rulings nullifying previous trials, raised the specter of a return to the violence of the previous decade. By April 2004, Toledo's public approval ratings had dipped into the single digits, with calls for his resignation.

With Toledo's administration and party weakened, political actors quickly turned their attention to the 2006 presidential elections. What appeared to be a clear cut choice between former President Alan García and Lourdes Flores Nano of the center-right coalition Unidad Nacional was surprisingly interrupted by the surging candidacy of an outsider. Ollanta Humala, a former junior army officer, emerged in first place in the first round of voting in April 2006, largely with strong support in the Andean region. Concerns about his human rights record, resentment over endorsements from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and statements hinting at authoritarian tendencies led to his loss of the second round of voting in June 2006 to Alan García. In his inauguration speech, President Alan García set a centrist tone, promising to maintain Peru's economic growth and avoid the problems that bedeviled his first administration.

Much of the literature on Peru over the last several years continues to grapple with the operations and legacies of the Fujimori regime. One important question raised in many of these works is the extent to which its authoritarianism reflected social dynamics, institutional rules, or the machinations of key regime figures, especially presidential advisor Vladimiro Montesinos. The congressional report by Diez Canseco (item #bi2005006473#), the two-volume work by Luis Jochamowitz (items #bi2005006496# and #bi2007002408#), and the two volumes of audio and video transcriptions of Montesinos' private meetings with political leaders (item #bi2007002407#), clearly place Montesinos at the center of authoritarianism's rise in Peru. By contrast, Kenney argues that institutional design, particularly legislative voting and party system rules, bear much responsibility (item #bi2007002409#). Arce (item #bi2007002402#), Conaghan (item #bi2005004483#), and Durand (item #bi2007002406#) all focus on how elites and regime figures reached mutual accommodations that allowed the regime to undermine democratic norms and rules in return for favors. Finally, Levitsky and Cameron focus on party decomposition, which in turn is linked to social changes, as the primary source of the authoritarian turn of the 1990s (item #bi2004001547#). All of these works, along with the essays found in Carrión (item #bi2007002404#), also attempt to lay out the challenges facing successor governments in strengthening democracy in Peru.

A major shift in political analyses on Peru has been a greater focus on political institutions and particularly the reforms needed to improve efficiency and strengthen accountability. Analysts, who in addition to reviewing existing institutions offer concrete proposals for reforms, include Abad Yupanqui on the bureaucracy (item #bi2005006515#), Acha and Diez Canseco on the police (item #bi2005006456#), Costa and Basombrío on the Ministry of Interior (item #bi2005006465#), Rospigliosi on the military (item #bi2005006502#), Tanaka on political parties (item #bi2007002410#), Guerrero Figueroa on municipalities (item #bi2005006512#), Núñez Román on decentralization (item #bi2005006459#), Mena Melgarejo on budgetary funding of social programs (item #bi2005006467#), and the edited volume by Crabtree that focuses on a range of institutional reforms (item #bi2007002405#). All of these works fill an important gap and will ultimately contribute to understanding the problems facing Peru's democracy.

With so many works focusing on the Fujimori period and its legacies, relatively few works have focused on the Toledo presidency, with the exception of Ballón's analysis of his first year in office (item #bi2005006494#). Explaining the political difficulties of that administration, as well as its inability to translate economic growth into political capital, remain tasks for future analyses.


Go to the:


Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (7/11/14)