Who is the king of the castle?

16 September 2019

Francisco Durand, more than anyone of his generation, has researched the ins and outs of Peru’s powerful business elite. Coinciding with a conference this week in the Catholic University on elites, civil society and the state in the Andean region and Southern Cone, Durand has published a useful guide to who he considers the most powerful of the powerful. 

Number three in his ranking is the Romero Group, led by Dionisio Romero Paoletti. The Romeros would probably have been number one a few decades back when the group was run by his father Dionisio Romero Seminario. Romero still controls Peru’s largest bank, the Banco de Crédito, key part of the Credicorp empire. He also controls Alicorp and various other conglomerates. But as Durand points out, although Romero still controls Credicorp it is now, in reality, foreign-owned. He also says that Romero Paoletti no longer has the vocation to be top dog in Peru’s business world.

Second in the list comes Roque Benavides, the owner of a large business empire in the mining sector, and twice past president of Confiep, the private sector lobby organisation. Benavides, unlike other major business players, has never shied away from taking public positions. He has long maintained strong political connections, first with APRA and then with the Fujimori government. This public posture is seen by Durand as a weakness, particularly at a moment when Peru’s mining oligarchy is under attack from a variety of social movements. Also, with mining industry suffering from a downturn in prices because of declining Chinese demand, over-concentration in this sector is a source of vulnerability.

Durand’s number-one choice is the business empire of Carlos Rodríguez-Pastor, led by the banking group Interbank. Despite a less public profile than Benavides, Rodríguez Pastor retains large political influence. He is the power behind CADE, the annual conference of business executives which has played a major role in setting the economic agenda for successive governments. As well as banking, he has major interests in the pharma sector (the Inkafarma and Mi farma retail outlets), in education (various universities) and a variety of other franchises around the country. His links with international business groups are also notable.
Durand ends his list wondering out loud who these people will want to support in future elections and, indeed, how strong their commitment to democratic outcomes will be if, as seems possible, civil society gains force in terms of challenging the pro-business suppositions on which economic policy making has been based for the last 30 years.

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