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Peruvian president wins impeachment process, but opposition grows

By Lucas Leiroz | September 28, 2020

The political crisis in Peru is far from over. Despite the fact that President Martín Vizcarra won the first stage of his dispute against the Congress mainly formed by Fujimori’s supporters, the expectation is that his opponents will continue to try to overthrow him through an institutional coup that “respects” the limits of “legality” and “democracy”.

In September 2019, Vizcarra resorted to the Constitution to legitimately dissolve the National Congress, after a series of clashes between the Legislative and the Executive, with parliamentarians denying cooperation with the government in a boycott gesture. In response, Congress intensified its opposition to the government and, even though suspended, illegally “deposed” President Vizcarra, recognizing his former vice president, Mercedez Araóz, as the country’s leader. For one day, Peru had two presidents – similar to the Venezuelan case: one legitimate and one artificially chosen by the opposition. However, Araóz resigned the next day.

Martín Vizcarra was elected in 2018 with a speech based on “fighting corruption”, as it could not be otherwise: Peru was one of the countries most affected by the “Operation Car Wash “, which started in Brazil and spread to several countries in Latin America, dismembering billion-dollar corruption schemes between governments and private companies. In Peru, four former presidents were investigated in the Operation and the leader of the largest congressional party, Keiko Fujimori, was arrested. Keiko is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, a former president who ruled the country for ten years. She, under her father’s command, leads the opposition against Vizcarra and has a majority of supporters in the Congress. In July last year, Vizcarra asked Congress to vote on a legal reform to change the process of choosing judges for the Constitutional Court. But, instead of carrying out the reform, parliamentarians chose the judges themselves, which is why Vizcarra chose to close the Congress.

Thus began the conflict between the Executive and the Legislative, which has remained since then. Opponents recently launched an impeachment process against Vizcarra alleging his “moral inability” to exercise the position of president. The reason for such “moral incapacity” would be an alleged irregular hiring made by the president for the Ministry of Culture, a topic of ​​extremely low political relevance for the country. But the reforms carried out by Vizcarra partially reversed the scenario in Congress after its restoration, increasing the number of parliamentarians who support the President (his supporters are still a minority, though). Thus the impeachment request was rejected this September.

The head of state denounced that the impeachment request is part of a plot against him, planned by sectors of Congress that wish to take control of the country. Such sectors are said to be reminiscent of opponents who led Vizcarra to close Congress last year and have the support of a large political wing outside the legislative branch. The party with the greatest influence in Congress is still the “Fuerza Popular” of Alberto Fujimori and his daughter, who is now back in politics.

Keiko Fujimori is the main name of the opposition at the moment. Prosecuted for integrating the corruption schemes investigated by Operation Car Wash, Keiko has been arrested twice in recent years and is currently under house arrest, which is not preventing her from acting politically. Days ago, the daughter of the former dictator (who is also in prison), announced in her account on a social network that she is back to politics in a “100% active” way and “under her father’s command”. Apparently, Keiko intends to run for the 2021 elections – if she is no longer under judicial penalty – or at least to support some strong opposition candidate. This will inevitably increase internal tensions and the political crisis until next year’s elections, considering that Keiko Fujimori is president of Fuerza Popular, which is the country’s strongest party.

The scenario is worrying for Vizcarra from all points of view. Despite increasing the number of his supporters in Congress, Fujimori’s party is still the strongest one and could mobilize parliamentarians to overthrow him if the reason for the impeachment request was a stronger accusation than mere “moral incapacity”. And, with the recent history of Latin America, we can see that events like this have occurred with great frequency. In 2016, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was overthrown in an impeachment process without any material evidence of her crimes being presented. Also, last year Bolivian President Evo Morales was the victim of an explicit coup d’état orchestrated by the opposition, which led to the presidency the then vice-president of the Senate, Jenine Áñez, who still leads the country. In fact, the fragility of the legal and democratic structure of the Latin countries is immense, since these countries are going through a moment of special political crisis, possibly influenced by external factors and agents.

Vizcarra’s victory does not have real political relevance, in practice, as the Peruvian president has not been strengthened with it. Most Likely, there will be more pressure and the opposition trying to get him out of office even though the elections are only six months away.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

September 28, 2020 - Posted by | Corruption | ,

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