Peru Historical Overview: Return to Democracy

Return to Democracy

After Fujimori’s fall a transitional government was formed to oversee the reintroduction of democracy to the country. Opposition leader, Valentin Paniagua, was appointed as the interim president. During eight months in office, Paniagua repealed much of the anti-terrorism legislation passed by Fujimori which had allowed for trials of suspects by masked judges and jurors. The country was readmitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (it had withdrawn in 1999), the Constitutional Court reconvened and efforts were made to bolster press freedom. Paniagua also established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and report on the abuses of the previous 20 years.

In a general election in 2001 Alejandro Toledo was elected as president. After a prolonged period of suffering under autocratic rule, Peru’s population expected much from their new president. However, hopes for transformative reform were rapidly dashed as Toledo followed a free market agenda, basically continuing Fujimori-era economic policies. Growing social conflict, labour unrest, corruption scandals involving presidential associates, a hostile press and controversy over his family life all served to damage Toledo’s public image. Despite strong economic growth throughout his presidency, his approval ratings barely reached double figures for most of his time in office.

In 2006 Toledo was replaced as president by Alan García. García’s second government – he was president previously between 1985 and 1990 – was a far cry from his first in policy terms. Having previously espoused heterodox economic policies, he sought this time to allay business fears by seeking foreign investment - especially in the extractive industries - and liberalising foreign trade.

Such policies pitted his government against a number of social movements, particularly in the mining sector. He expressed little sympathy for those peasant and indigenous communities that opposed mining concessions on their land. In an article published in 2007 he accused these groups of standing in the way of the country’s progress. During his time in office, social conflict related to extractive activity increased by over 300%. Clashes between protestors and military / police officials during such demonstrations also led to 191 deaths between 2006 and 2011.