Thursday, 9 April 2009

Light in Peru

The former President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, has been convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for his authorisation of civilian massacres and kidnappings during the country's stuggle against the Shining Path rebels in the 1990s. With an exemplary trial Peru deserves to be lauded, becoming the first Latin American country to convict one of its own democratically-elected presidents on human rights charges.

Yet while under intenational scrutiny Peru's institutions may perform, its people are more sceptical. In Latinobarometro's latest poll respondents across Latin America were asked 'How satisfied are you with the way democracy works in your country?' - Peru ranked dead last in the region for those 'very' or 'somewhat satisfied'. Indeed, the concern is now that the good work of the courts will be undone by the political process itself. The daughter of Mr Fujimori, Keiko Fujimori, has vowed to pardon her father if she wins presidential polls in 2011. Despite her current strong third place in opinion polling on the forthcoming election, this is pretty unlikely, with a large majority of Peruvians convinced of the guilt of her father as President.

Yet although Ms Fujimori has vowed not to seek a deal with current President Alan Garcia, his party, APRA, only holds 36 seats in the 120-seat Peruvian Congress, and must seek out allies to avoid political gridlock - the pro-Fujimori political bloc, meanwhile, holds a potentially vital 13 seats. More significantly, the field for the 2011 presidential election - in which Mr Garcia cannot run - is badly split. The leading candidate, current major of Lima Luis CastaƱeda Lossio, barely breaks 20% the intended vote, with last time's runner-up Ollanta Humala not far behind. The temptation for Peru's politicians to cut a deal with the Fujimoristas and promise a pardon for the former President in return for political support will be great. For the credibility of Peruvian democracy - not to mention the exigencies of justice - it should be strenuously resisted by all sides.

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