Corruption in Peruvian politics: presumption of innocence and guilt

14 June 2015

Over the last fortnight First Lady Nadine Heredia Alarcón has faced a barrage of criticism over her personal finances and the presumption that she was at the centre of a corruption scandal just waiting to erupt. After Martín Belaunde Lossio was captured in Bolivia, it was also widely assumed that corruption links between him and Nadine Heredia would swiftly emerge. This has not been the case, the only connection being two consultancies Heredia carried out for him and his father, previously deemed to have been lawful. These triggered the reopening of a debate over how two deposits made by Venezuelan enterprises in 2005 and 2009 for US$216 million were actually spent. This spending, the judiciary resolved on 12 June, was also lawful.

The polemic intensified over last week as the details of the expenditure emerged and how Heredia used a friend’s credit card to pay for some of the items bought. The total amount charged on the card was 30 million dollars, and Heredia claims that her purchases were only a small proportion of that and that she has covered those from her income and acquiring further debt. Much of the criticism revolved around the sort of luxury items she bought, choices perhaps ill-advised for someone who claims to represent the poor.

There is more than a good deal of hypocrisy involved in accusations over corruption in Peru, especially when other leading political figures arguably face more serious charges. Alan Garcia, for example, is accused of profiting in his time in office; Alberto Fujimori, it has been shown, accepted and distributed embezzled money; and his daughter Keiko has so far been unable to explain from where the more than US$100,000 came from to pay for her and her siblings’ education in the United States.

But in a country where corruption in politics is so engrained, accusations of this kind will always have traction.

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