Abuse of parliamentary privilege is fast going up the public agenda in Peru. This is, of course, nothing new, nor is the widespread discredit of the Congress as registered in repeated opinion polls.
Since it achieved an absolute majority in July 2016, the Fujimorista Fuerza Popular (FP) party has had little scruple in managing Congress in its own interest, both through the majority of parliamentary committees which it controls as well as through its occupancy of the presidency of Congress. Of particular importance has been its management of the committees investigating the Lava Jato scandal, the ethics committee and the constitutional affairs committee.
Recent allegations of alleged misuse of parliamentary budgets have added insult to injury. A particularly piquant scandal surrounds the large amounts granted to members of Congress to acquire televisions and refrigerated bars (frigobars) in the run-up to the World Cup for which (for the first time in many years) Peru has qualified.
Another issue surrounds the opposition by FP members to plans to beef up regulation of financial cooperatives in which prominent party members have a strong vested interest (see article).
Further malaise surrounds the large increase in the numbers of people employed by Congress and its individual members. According to figures published by La República, the congressional payroll has increased since FP took over control from 3,185 in August 2016 to 3,899 in April this year. The total budget allocation of the Congress exceeds that of several ministries, including the environment ministry (Minem), the ministry of culture and the ministry of foreign trade.
Such largesse takes place in a situation in which the Vizcarra administration is urging austerity in the public sector. According to Veronika Mendoza, the leader of the left-wing Nuevo Perú party, “it’s worrying this abusive waste in the Congress. We need to see some will to cut superfluous spending”.