Plus ca change - How Peruvian elites stay on top

3 July 2016

As Peru prepares for a change of government on 28 July, the question once again poses itself as to how Peruvian elites, particularly those linked to extractive industries, maintain their dominance over policy-making in the economic sphere. For example the business community, both in Peru and abroad, has welcomed the appointment of the new economy minister, Alfredo Thorne. He will not stray far from the script of economic orthodoxy over the next few years, as he seeks to attract investment. He has said he intends to change the law on community ownership of indigenous lands to make it easier for hard-pressed indigenous families to sell their portion of the land to corporate interests.

It is therefore a timely moment for an important new study, written by the Catholic University lecturer Francisco Durand, into the various mechanisms used by Peruvian elites to maintain control over policy-making, notwithstanding occasional threats (like the election of Ollanta Humala in 2011). The purpose, he writes in the introduction, is “to explain the factors that determine state capture in a government and the concrete mechanisms that combine at a particular point in time to enable corporations (...) to gain disproportionate influence over specific areas of the bureaucratic machine so as to produce laws that benefit them, at the expense of public institutions and vulnerable groups in society”. The study, published by Oxfam, is available for download at:

The book looks, in particular, at the story of the last five years under Humala, looking at how Humala himself was ‘captured’, then how the businessmen’s confederation, Confiep, managed to orchestrate policy with respect to extractive industries. It examines in particular the genesis of Law 30230 which reduced environmental protection in order to boost investment.

Durand is currently involved in a more comprehensive, historically-based study into state capture in Peru, to be published in English next year by Zed Press, with co-author John Crabtree, research associate at the Latin American Centre, Oxford.

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  • PSG Aims

    The Peru Support Group exists to promote social inclusion, sustainable development and the observance of human rights in Peru. To that end the PSG highlights shortcomings in observance of established norms, whether international or local in nature, in its research, advocacy and publications. In so doing, it underscores the relationships that exist within the political system, how institutions work, and the effectiveness of policies that aim to reduce poverty and inequality within the context of sustainable development.

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    Over the past century Peru has suffered a series of autocratic governments and a civil war in which nearly 70,000 people died. Many of the country's ongoing political and social problems are a legacy of its somewhat turbulent past. 

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