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What Happened in Peru

-from our Correspondent

On March 21 President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) was forced to resign less
than two years after he was elected by a slim majority. What happened?

The results of the 2016 election would have required major democratic fortitude
and experience. Peru has neither. In the first round of the elections in April 2016,
Keiko Fujimori, the estranged daughter of autocrat Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000 and in
captivity 2007-2017) was unable to win a majority because of her deep unpopularity in
the south of Peru. However, because of the vagaries of the electoral law she was able
to win a supermajority in the Congress, proportionately larger than her vote. She fully
expected to win the presidency in the second round June 5. But she did not. She lost
by a small margin of 0.2%, largely because of the negative perception of the press that
her vice-president candidate had manipulated an accusatory TV tape days before the
election.

Mrs. Fujimori never accepted the result. She was an invisible leader of the
opposition, except for occasional outbursts of rage. She only accepted two meetings
with Kuczynski in almost two years. Manoeuvres in Congress forced two successive
education ministers to resign, two finance ministers (including the then concurrent
prime minister), and the then transport minister, today the president since he was the
vice president elected in 2016.

As political tension continued into 2017, major floods on the north coast, the
most prosperous agricultural area of Peru, slowed the economy. But worse was to
come when Jorge Barata, the former Peru head of Odebrecht –the large Brasilian
construction firm accused of corruption- cut a plea bargain with the Peruvian
prosecutor. The prosecutors’ office then started to release the statements made by
Barata in the fashion of a TV series. The rumor-prone press started speculation that
Keiko was about to be indicted, as well as former president Alan García. It was time
for both of them to cover their tracks. That was the major reason for the attempted
impeachment of Kuczynski on December 21, 2017. The attempt failed, as
parliamentarians from the left exited the chamber and the 2/3 majority needed to
impeach evaporated.

At about the same time, the humanitarian release of Alberto Fujimori


announced by Kuczynski some months before was about to take place. International
opinion was obviously unhappy about this event, thinking it was prearranged when in
fact it had been in the works for several months. Fujimori, almost 80, was in poor
health and had spent 11 years in captivity. The release of Fujimori sparked a second
impeachment attempt, again without any of its constitutional requirements. There was
an attempt, as before, to link Kuczynski with Odebrecht through claims that one of his
former colleagues in Miami had done investment banking work, along with many other
actors, for Odebrecht: true enough but Kuczynski as finance minister and prime
minister in 2004-2006 did not participate in or authorise this service in any form.

Peru does not seem to be able to get away from the Fujimoris. The release of
Alberto Fujimori sparked a war between Keiko, who could not hide her disgust that her
father was now free to cast a shadow over her, and her younger brother Kenji, who
walked out of his sister’s party with a dozen congressmen. The second impeachment
was about to fail, again. This would have ended Keiko’s career. In a manoeuvre
worthy of spymeister Vladimiro Montesinos (still in jail), manipulated recordings
appeared of the departing congressmen to make it look as if they had some kind of
deal with the government. The impeachment was back on track. The president
resigned rather than be subjected to another dictatorial lynching.

The Fujimori Shakespearian saga continues. Peru will eventually get over it,
but it may take time.

March 27, 2018

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