'Political control' and the art of browbeating the judiciary

10 December 2017

‘Political control’ has become the new catchphrase as the Fujimorista opposition seeks, through its control of the legislature, to enforce its influence over both the judiciary and the executive. Amen to the notion (always somewhat relative) of the separation of powers in Peru.

As Mirko Lauer pointed out in an opinion piece last week in La República, the ring-leaders in Fuerza Popular, starting with its president of the legislature, Luis Galarreta, have been in celebratory mood for having secured the imprisonment of five senior construction executives (see also PSG article). They see the FP majority as key in punishing those accused of corruption. In fact, it had little or nothing to do with the move by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía) to put these captains of industry behind bars while it investigates their role in the Odebrecht bribery scandal. Also FP’s notion of justice, as we shall see, is somewhat one-sided.

Political control had already been set in motion in previous weeks by the attempt by Fuerza Popular to remove from his job the Chief Public Prosecutor (Fiscal de la Nación), Pablo Sánchez Velarde. A further attempt to browbeat the judiciary came in the form of attempts to dismiss members of the Constitutional Court. Fuerza Popular lacks the numbers required in Congress to sack the Chief Public Prosecutor on its own (it requires a two-thirds majority) but, as Lauer argues, it can exercise ‘political control’ over minority parties to secure its objectives.

Attempts by the Fujimoristas to browbeat the executive have centred on its control of the parliamentary commission that is (supposedly) overseeing the Lavo Jato scandals. These have focused in recent weeks on forcing President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to appear in person before the Commission to answer unspecified questions as to his role in the Odebrecht scandal. He has so far resisted these pressures, arguing that the constitution protects him from such questioning and offering to answer in writing the points the Commission might wish to raise. The to-and-fro on this reached a new, almost farcical level, last week when the Commission demanded to question Kuczynski’s wife instead.

The underlying point is that Fuerza Popular has never really come to terms with the fact that it lost the last presidential election, albeit by a slim margin. It would like to see its political control of Congress as the expression of the will of the people, rather than the very narrow second-round presidential election result.

Political control, or the use of intimidation against the other powers of the state, has intensified as the Fujimoristas seek to ensure that Keiko Fujimori is not held to account (as former president Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine Heredia have been who are currently in jail) over the money they allegedly received from Odebrecht in the 2011 elections. Again as we see below, the Fujimoristas also stand accused of receiving laundered money from Odebrecht as well as drug running operations through its former general secretary Joaquín Ramírez. Ramírez figures among those wanted for questioning by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

As we have pointed , as the mudslinging over corruption allegations becomes increasingly charged, the political stability of Peru’s democratic institutions looks increasingly fragile. It may become more so when, as now seems almost certain, Odebrecht’s man in Peru, Jorge Barata spills further beans as the New Year begins. It remains unclear who will eventually come out on top, if anyone.

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    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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