Predictably, the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal (TC) to uphold a writ of habeas corpus and then to order the release of Keiko Fujimori from jail proved controversial, not least so because the ruling was challenged by one of the members of the TC itself. On 3 December, TC judge Eloy Espinosa-Saldaña argued that the decision was a “wrong judgement” (fallo equivocado), pointing to procedural errors and to the mechanisms for reversing such judgements. He was subsequently backed up by the procurator of the judiciary, Marco Palomino, who also pointed to procedural errors.
Ernesto Blume, the outgoing president of the TC, refused to accept any such arguments, claiming that the decision of the TC was final and should be accepted by all and sundry. He criticised what he called “attitudes of rebellion” (actitudes de rebeldía), presumably a reference to the position taken by Espinosa-Saldaña. Blume has frequently been accused of being pro-fujimorista.
The ruling was also called into question by José Domingo Pérez, the intrepid prosecutor who has done more than anyone else to uncover the details of the Lava Jato scandal, the reason why Fujimori was in jail on the first place. He claimed that the judgement was made with errors and that the result was “illegitimate”. Pérez is now the target for new accusations against him by a fellow public prosecutor with links to the Cuellos Blancos del Puerto corruption scandal.
The role of the TC in the Peruvian political system is of key importance as an arbiter of disputes involving interpretations of the constitution. It was the threat that the fujimorista majority was going to pack the TC with political sympathisers that finally led to the dissolution of Congress on 30 September.
Shortly afterwards, the president of the Congress, Pedro Olaechea, requested from the TC a ruling on the constitutionality of Vizcarra’s move in dissolving Congress. On 4 December, the TC ruled that it was competent to judge the case and would do so within “30 working days”, a ruling judged by Olaechea as “historic”.
Were the TC to judge in Olaechea’s favour, it would be an embarrassing reverse for Vizcarra, not least since fresh legislative elections are scheduled for 26 January. In practical political terms, it would be difficult to call the elections off.
Earlier in the week, Marianella Ledesma, daughter of a former left-wing senator, was elected as the new president of the TC. This was welcomed by Vizcarra as showing a “change in mentality” (cambio de mentalidad) on the part of the TC. He went on to praise the activities of the public prosecutors in charge of the Lava Jato investigations, both Pérez and Rafael Vela. Ledesma was among those on the TC that voted against Keiko’s release.