Editorial: Corruption continues
Update 110. 31 July 2005
The recent marches in Lima and other Peruvian cities to protest against corruption reflect the widespread disillusionment felt by many Peruvians. Five years ago, the hundreds of 'Vladivideos' and other revelations showed how common corrupt practices were at all levels of Peruvian society.
With the collapse of the Fujimori-Montesinos regime, a special anti-corruption drive was begun, with the aim of restoring ordinary Peruvians' faith in agents of the state: from traffic police to ministers, from judges to passport officials. For the first time in Peruvian history, many of those in the most prominent positions in the armed forces, the judiciary, the police and other sectors were arrested and charged with every sort of corruption.
Gradually, however, this initial impetus has been lost. Attempts to extradite former President Fujimori from Japan have failed, while extradition orders for suspects who fled to other countries have been followed up only slowly. The cases against Montesinos have also proceeded very slowly, and although the sentences against him have been building up, there has so far been no spectacular condemnation that could serve as a warning to others.
At the same time, the special prosecutors acting against Montesinos and other prominent defendants have complained that they have far less money and fewer resources than the accused themselves. Montesinos is not alone in buying the most expert and expensive counsel to prolong cases and to seek to pervert justice. At the same time, some of those jailed several years ago on suspicion of corruption have now been freed because their cases have taken so long to come before a court.
All this, together with new and blatant cases of corruption that have taken place under President Toledo, has led many Peruvians to conclude that nothing much has changed since Fujimori. They see politicians selling their political alliances, representatives from the previous regime enjoying favours under the supposedly democratic government, underhand deals being done for contracts in mining and other sectors. The justice system itself has not undergone a thorough process of reform, and attempts to stamp out corruption among the police have also largely foundered.
All this has brought Peruvians out again on to the streets. Sadly, with one eye on next year's elections, some politicians have joined in and tried to make political capital out of their 'anti-corruption' stance. It is surely far more important for them to put pressure on the government to continue with the investigations begun in 2001, and to ensure that all those suspected of corruption are brought swiftly to trial.
They should also be urging the government to make sure that sufficient resources are made available to the anti-corruption investigators and lawyers to enable them to complete their difficult task. Unless Peruvians are given clear evidence that the political parties are wholeheartedly opposed to all kinds of corruption, the gap between the population and its elected representatives can only grow. This would be dangerous for the 2006 elections, and for Peruvian democracy beyond them.