By Emily Arias González - International Relations Student
On November the 9th of 2020, Manuel Merino became the third president of Peru in a period of four years. This day the former Peru’s president Martin Vizcarra was dismissed from his position due to “moral incapacity” connected to a possible case of corruption. The removal of a president due to corruption accusations is not something new on the Peruvian government. However, this case shakes the Peruvian population and leads it into the streets to make a massive protest that lasted 8 days and created a political crisis on the government.
But why this case created such response and why is the people reacting to it until now? During these last two decades, Peru has been the objective of democracy backsliding scenarios, from corruption to almost an example of a coup. In these senses, the question of why and how this country has been through a lot of political crisis and adopted some authoritarian behaviors in the past decades is answered by different aspects.
One of the main reasons of Peru’s democracy backsliding is the internal corruption within the government. According to Aquino (2020), all the presidents from Peru since 1985 have been accused or removed of their roles because of corruption accusations (para. 4), plus 68 congress members being investigated about the same issue. The censorship and lack of communication from the politicians to the people creates knowledge gaps between them and the opportunity to violate the ethic of accountability. The corruption is an enemy for democracy, and the transparency required from the politicians becomes almost inexistent because of the seek power losing the democracy’s focus on the people’s needs.
The decision making in the Peruvian congress does not matches what is expected from a healthy democracy. The researcher Dukenbelrg (2020) qualified the removal of Vizcarra as a ‘coup from the congress’ (para. 6). Although in January of 2020 Vizcarra dissolved the congress because of the large opposition from the ‘Fujimoristas’, still the congress it was almost %70 of opposition from other parties. The abuse of power of congress was another violation to the country’s democracy, according to the journalist Ana María Roura, the ‘Vacancy process’ if 20% of congress asks for it and %66 approves it, can be done with no long debates (BBC News Mundo, 2020). The aspect clear is that without the congress support the president practically fights alone for his position which means there are not fair elections, and the decisions are not done for the convenience of the Peruvians, the decisions are made to protect the congress interests, creating a gap of representative democracy.
Regardless of the government behavior, the Peruvians decided to make a democratic act after the decision of the congress, which was to protest pacifically. From November 9th until Saturday 21st a massive strike took place on the capital and other places around the country. During this time, according to the newspaper La Republica (2020), people was posting signs like ‘neither Merino or Vizcarra’ or ‘The congress does not represent me’ showing the unhappiness from the Peruvians and how they are tired of the corruption and the misrepresentation of the politicians. The power of this movement forced the president of congress Manuel Merino to resign his position of president after Vizcarra. This is how democracy as a capacity, to express the concerns through protests, gives hope to make changes on their government.
Peru still has a long way to go after this crisis, the COVID-19 had make it difficult for all the countries to recover and this problem does not make it easier for Peru. There were other outrages to democracy during this time in Peru apart from the political side, violence and human rights were compromised on this protest. But there is hope, because Peruvians now know their voices can be listened and they can be used to change.
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Aquino, M. (2020, November 10). Explainer: How Peru's Congress ousted the president and what happens now. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-peru-politics-vizcarra-ouster-explain-idUSKBN27Q06Y
BBC News Mundo. (2020, November 12). ¿Por qué han caído tantos presidentes en Perú? YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4HQthYFZQw
Dunkelberg, A. G. (2020, November 16). Peru 'coup': Public fury forces resignation of interim president leaving dangerous power vacuum. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/peru-coup-public-fury-forces-resignation-of-interim-president-leaving-dangerous-power-vacuum-150200
La República. (2020, November 14). Estas son las frases que dejaron las protestas en el sur contra Manuel Merino. https://larepublica.pe/sociedad/2020/11/12/estas-son-las-frases-que-dejaron-las-protestas-en-el-sur-contra-manuel-merino-lrsd/