Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as PER, Peru has mainly functioning institutions and in the 2000s the change of power took place in orderly form. However, the deep-rooted corruption is a social problem. Several scandals in recent times have again shaken confidence in democracy and politics. The indigenous peoples are subject to discrimination and lack political representation.

The four most recently elected presidents, as well as the leader of the largest opposition party, have all been accused of involvement in the major corruption scandal surrounding Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht (see Current Policy). The scandal shows that corruption characterizes politics at the highest level, even though it is generally considered to have declined since Alberto Fujimori’s authoritarian rule in the 1990s.

Alberto Fujimori was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for corruption and human rights violations. When the then President When Pablo Pedro Kuczynski suddenly pardoned Fujimori, formally for humanitarian reasons, in December 2017, it was assumed to be a step in trying to save his own skin. Fujimorists in Congress were pushing to get Kuczynski deposed. The pardon was sharply criticized by human rights organizations with reference to impunity and the rule of law. After a short year, and after Kuczynski was forced to resign, a court withdrew the pardon.

It is well known in the past that local politicians get their election campaigns funded with money from drug dealing and other illegal activities. The majority of leading politicians who ran in the 2016 presidential election were also accused of corruption, including the two who then moved on to the second round. Some others were disqualified (see Calendar). Almost a quarter of all members of Congress have been interrogated in connection with a bribery investigation.

Peru ranks 101 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual assessment of the world’s countries by the degree of corruption (the full list is here). This means a position in the middle of major countries in South America, much like Brazil and Colombia – and worse than Chile. The same applies to relative measurements of political and civil rights, as well as freedom of the press and expression.

Social conflicts are behind many human rights violations in Peru. The conflicts mainly concern the utilization of natural resources and environmental issues, and often affect the mining industry. The indigenous peoples of the Andes and the Amazon are concerned about what the activities of the foreign mining companies will have on the environment and human health. Demonstrations and roadblocks occur and sometimes end in violent clashes with security forces with dead and injured. Indigenous peoples feel that they do not receive adequate compensation when their land is used. Another reason for upset feelings is the difference in how much resources are concentrated to the coastal areas and the capital Lima in relation to the areas where the Indians live.

The remains of the terror-stamped guerrilla Sendero Luminoso (see also Modern History and below) are deeply involved in cocoa cultivation and drug trafficking. The guerrilla and the illegal coca production are now concentrated in an area southeast of Lima. The area is usually referred to by an abbreviation with the names of two or three rivers, such as Vrae (Apurímac-Ene Valley) or Vraem (Apurímac-Ene-Mantaro Valley). Army forces sent to the guerrilla areas have been subjected to several attacks and a number of people have been killed.

Although Peru is South America’s second largest producer of coca leaves and cocaine (after Colombia), the country is considered one of the safest in Latin America. However, among Peruvians there is great concern about the security situation, which many refer to as the most pressing political issue. Crime has risen sharply in recent years.

Freedom of expression and media

Freedom of the press is enshrined in the constitution but is poorly respected in practice. Every year, over a hundred cases of crimes against the freedom of the press are reported and violence against journalists is common.

Journalists are harassed by authorities and other actors, such as businessmen or other interest groups. Journalists who write about particularly sensitive topics such as corruption, social conflicts (see Current policy) or drug trafficking run the risk of being subjected to violence or threats of violence. It also happens that journalists are murdered. Defamation legislation often leads to threats, harassment and prosecution of journalists, especially in remote areas.

There are also legal barriers to journalists’ activities. In many cases, politicians and other authorities have sued mass media for slander, which is punishable. When Ollanta Humala took office as president in the summer of 2011, a legislative amendment was adopted that would mitigate the penalty for slander, but it was never implemented. Instead, the government introduced new laws that restricted the work of journalists. Among other things, it was forbidden to disseminate information obtained through hidden interception, a method often used to expose corruption within the power apparatus.

The threats and pressures sometimes cause journalists to refrain from reporting on events, even though they feel they are important. Another problem is corruption. During Fujimori’s time at the act, large parts of the journalist corps were bribed and even today it seems that journalists receive money for angling news or reporting in a certain way.

In 2020, Peru is ranked 90 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index (for the full list see here).

Judicial system and legal security

During Alberto Fujimori’s tenure as president in the 1990s, the independence of the judicial system was limited, including through threats and bribery. Following Fujimori’s fall in 2000, measures were taken to strengthen human rights and create a more independent judicial system. In 2008, a law was passed that tightened the requirements for the country’s judges and the judiciary has its own disciplinary committee which actively worked to improve conditions. Despite this, the justice system still has a reputation for being corrupt.

The police and security forces are regularly accused of arbitrary arrests, torture and other abuses. Protests against disputed mining projects have led to violence.

The congestion is great in the prisons. According to official data, 97,000 people are inside, which is twice as many as the 68 prisons are intended for.

The 1993 Constitution introduced the death penalty for terrorist offenses. The death penalty can also be punished for high treason in wartime.

Legal aftermath after the 1980-2000 conflict

In 2001, a law was repealed from 1995 that granted the military amnesty for crimes during the war against the guerrillas, 1980-2000. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission appointed the same year in 2003 presented a report on human rights violations during the conflict between security forces and, above all, the Maoist guerrilla Sendero Luminoso. According to the Commission, more than 69,000 people were killed or disappeared in the guerrilla-military violence. Most of the victims belonged to the indigenous peoples and lived in the villages of the Andes. Sendero Luminoso was accused of systematic methods of terror against civilians, while army soldiers and police were accused of abuses such as torture and sexual violence. The guerrilla was believed to be behind just over half of the murders, while a little over a third of the victims were killed by security forces.

A report presented in 2019 found a lower death rate, about 48,000, and found that security forces were behind most deaths. In the same year, a judge indicted for crimes against humanity, against 14 militants who were accused of systematically raping nine agricultural women between 1984 and 1995.

Legal proceedings for abuse during the conflict have generally been slow. State power has been accused of doing too little on the issue. One concern is that the Ministry of Defense is not happy to provide relevant information. By 2017, only 78 cases had been completed, where mainly military and police were accused of abuse. In only 17 cases were there convictions.

However, the work is continuing. A court case involving the torture, disappearance and extrajudicial executions of 53 people at a notorious military base, Los Cabitos, ended after just over a decade with two convictions. However, the two former soldiers were convicted in their absence. The remains of over 100 people have been found in Los Cabitos, located in Ayacucho.

Over 200,000 women were also forcibly sterilized under Fujimori’s rule, according to an official report. The state government has established a national register of those affected, who mainly belong to the indigenous peoples.

According to Peruvian authorities, around 20,000 people disappeared during the armed conflict. President Martín Vizcarra ordered in 2018 that a DNA bank be set up to facilitate the identification of victims.

Peru Crime Rate & Statistics



President Fujimori resigns

President Alberto Fujimori, who moved to Japan after a major corruption scandal (see Modern History) announces that he has left his post. Parliament formally disposes of Fujimori. Parliament President Valentin Paniagua is sworn in as interim president.

Peru Democracy and Rights
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