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Peru - Government


PERU, IN 1980, was one of the first countries in South America to undergo the transition from long-term institutionalized military rule to democratic government. By 1990, however, Peru was in the midst of a social, economic, and political crisis of unprecedented proportions that threatened not only the viability of the democratic system but also civil society in general.

More than a decade of steep economic decline had resulted in a dramatic deterioration in living standards for all sectors of society and a vast increase in the large proportion of society that was underemployed and below the poverty line. Per capita incomes were below their 1960 levels. Accompanying the economic decline in the 1980s was a rise in insurgent violence and criminal activity. There was also a marked deterioration in the human rights situation--over 20,000 people died in political violence during the decade.

The crisis had partial roots in the failure of successive governments to implement effective economic policy and to fully incorporate the marginalized (informal) sector of the population into the formal economic and political systems. Politics were dominated by personalities rather than programs and by policy swings from populist policies to neoliberal stabilization strategies.

The concentration of decision-making power in the persona of the president and the major swings in policy took an enormous toll on the nation's political system and state institutions. The judicial and legislative branches, already inadequately funded and understaffed, were constantly bypassed by the executive. State institutions, meanwhile, already burdened by excessive bureaucracy, were virtually inoperative because government resources had all but disappeared. Political parties had been increasingly discredited, having failed to provide credible alternatives to the malfunctioning state system with which they were associated. Both extrasystem movements, such as neighborhood organizations and grassroots groups, and antisystem movements, such as guerrilla forces, particularly the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso--SL), had increased in size and importance. The breach between the Peruvian state and civil society had widened. The political system was fragmented and polarized to an unprecedented degree, and society, which was immersed in a virtual civil war, had become increasingly praetorian in nature.

Despite the desperate nature of the socioeconomic situation and the extent of political polarization, Peru successfully held its third consecutive elections in April and June 1990. Agronomist Alberto K. Fujimori, a virtual unknown, defeated novelist Mario Vargas Llosa by a wide margin. The victory of Fujimori and his Cambio '90 (Change '90) front was seen as a rejection of traditional politicians and parties, as well as of Vargas Llosa's proposed orthodox economic "shock" program.

Despite his wide popular margin, Fujimori faced substantial constraints early on. One was his lack of an organized party base or a working majority in either of the two houses of Congress. Another was that, as a result of hyperinflation, the lack of government resources, and the clear preferences of international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, he had little choice but to implement the orthodox shock program that he had campaigned against.

Although Fujimori made impressive strides during his first year in the implementation of structural economic reforms, there was substantial popular disaffection owing to the high social costs of the "Fujishock" program and to the government's failure to follow through on promises of a social emergency program to alleviate those shocks. Resource constraints inherited from the previous government severely limited the Fujimori administration's ability to act on the social welfare front. Fujimori lost the support of much of his Cambio '90 front when he turned to orthodox economics. In addition, he was forced to rely on a series of "marriages of convenience" with various political forces in Congress in order to pass legislation. He also had to rely on a sector of the army for institutional support.

On April 5, 1992, Fujimori suspended the constitution, dissolved the Congress and the judiciary, and placed several congressional leaders and members of the opposition under house arrest. The measures, which were fully supported by all three branches of the armed forces, were announced in the name of fighting drug traffic. They amounted to an autogolpe (self-coup): a military coup against the government led by the president himself. The government held elections for the Democratic Constituent Congress (Congreso Constituyente Democrático) on November 22, 1992, and municipal elections on January 29, 1993.

Constitutional Development
<>The President
<>The Legislature
<>The Judiciary
<>Public Administration
<>Local and Regional Government
<>The Electoral System
American Popular Revolutionary Alliance
<>Popular Action
<>The Christian Democrats
<>The Democratic Front
<>The Left
<>Change '90
<>Nonparty Organizations
The Military
<>The Church
<>Economic Associations
<>Labor Unions
<>News Media
Roots of the 1990-91 Crisis
<>The Transition to Democracy
<>The García Government, 1985-90
<>The 1990 Campaign and Elections
<>The Fujimori Government




During the first five months of 1992, Peru was a republic with a civilian government, which had a popularly elected president, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judicial branch. Peru's civilian government ended indefinitely as a result of Fujimori's autogolpe of April 5, 1992. The constitution of 1979 remained suspended and its Congress and judiciary remained dissolved during the rest of 1992. The following sections describe Peru's legitimate civilian government as it existed prior to April 5, 1992.

Constitutional Development

Until April 5, 1992, Peru was governed according to a constitution that became effective with the transition to civilian government in 1980. From the time of the declaration of independence by José de San Martín on July 18, 1821, up until the constitution of 1979, Peru had ten constitutions. All of them established a presidential form of government, with varying degrees of power concentrated in the executive. The French- and Spanish-influenced constitution of 1823, which abolished hereditary monarchy, was the first formal organic law of the Peruvian state drawn up by a constituent assembly under a popular mandate.

The departure of Simón Bolívar Palacios (1824-25, 1826) on September 3, 1826, ushered in a long period of revolt and instability with only brief periods of peace. The presidency changed twelve times between 1826 and 1845. During this period, Peru was governed under three constitutions--those of 1828, 1834, and 1839. There was little variation in the basic form of these constitutions. All provided for separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches, for indirect election of the president and Congress, for a centralized regime, and for extensive personal rights and guarantees. The only major variations were in details regarding specific powers of the executive.

The 1828 constitution moved toward decentralization and showed considerable influence by the United States. For example, it provided for presidential election by popular vote. In subsequent constitutions, there was a varying emphasis on executive versus legislative power, and gradual, progressive improvements, such as the subordination of the military to civilian rule, direct popular elections, and the granting of the right to association. The 1839 constitution extended the presidential term from four to six years, with no reelection.

When Marshal Ramón Castilla (1845-51, 1855-62) emerged as dictator in 1845, a period of relative peace and prosperity began. The 1856 constitution, promulgated during Castilla's rule, was more liberal and democratic than any of its predecessors. It provided for the first time for direct popular election of the president and Congress. However, a more conservative constitution was promulgated in 1860 and remained in force, with two brief interruptions--1862-68 and 1879-81--for sixty years. Although it reduced the presidential term to four years (with reelection after an intervening term), it greatly increased the powers of the president and provided for a much more centralized government. Nevertheless, it laid important bases for the future executive-legislative relationship. In particular, it established a requirement that cabinet ministers, although responsible to the president, report to Congress. Furthermore, it explicitly permitted Congress, at the end of each legislative session, to examine the administrative acts of the president to determine their conformity with the constitution and the laws.

The 1920 constitution was generally more liberal than its predecessor, the 1860 charter, and provided for more civil guarantees. Although it established a strong executive and lengthened the presidential term from four to five years, it placed several new checks on that branch. It deprived the president of his traditional right to suspend constitutional guarantees during periods of national emergency and strengthened the principle of ministerial responsibility to Congress. In particular, it gave Congress the right to force the resignation of ministers by a vote of no confidence. Having promulgated the constitution, however, Augusto B. Leguía y Salcedo (1908-12, 1919-30) ignored it almost completely and established himself as one of Peru's strongest dictators.

The 1933 constitution was, at least in theory, operative until 1980, although civilian government was interrupted from 1933 to 1939, 1948 to 1956, and 1968 to 1980. The 1933 constitution reduced presidential powers and instituted a mixed presidential-parliamentary system. It also instituted compulsory and secret balloting, as well as provisions for religious tolerance and freedom of speech. The president could not remove or nominate cabinet members without parliamentary consent. This resulted in a considerable number of executive-legislative stalemates, the most notable of which occurred during the first government of President Fernando Belaúnde Terry (1963-68, 1980- 85).

After a prolonged stalemate over issues ranging from tax and agrarian reforms to a contract with the International Petroleum Corporation, Belaúnde was overthrown on October 3, 1968, by the armed forces, led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-75). The resulting "revolutionary government" was a progressive, left-wing military regime, which attempted to implement a series of structural reforms; it maintained dictatorial powers but was only mildly repressive. After an intraregime coup in 1975 and a turn to orthodox economic management in the face of rising fiscal deficits and inflation, as well as increasing levels of social unrest, the military government called for a civilian-run Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution and hold elections.

The constitution of 1979, signed by the president of the Constituent Assembly, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre, on July 12, 1979--while he was virtually on his death-bed--sought to restore strong presidential power. Largely influenced by the French Fifth Republic, the constitution of 1979 established a presidential system with a bicameral legislature and a Council of Ministers, which was appointed by the president. An excessively broad document, the 1979 charter covered a host of rights and responsibilities of government, private persons, and businesses. It also established the structure of government and mandated measures to effect social changes, including the eradication of illiteracy and extreme poverty. The constitution could be amended by a majority of both houses of Congress.

The constitution guaranteed a series of liberties and rights, including the freedom of expression and association and the right to life, physical integrity, and "the unrestricted development of one's personality." Although the Roman Catholic Church is entitled to the cooperation of the government, Catholicism is not the official religion of the country, and religion is a matter of personal choice. Workers were guaranteed collective bargaining rights and had the right to strike and to participate in workplace management and profits. Public servants, with the exception of those with decision-making power and the armed forces and police, also had the right to strike.

Constitutional guarantees could be suspended during a state of emergency, defined as the disruption of peace or the domestic order, a catastrophe, or grave circumstances affecting the life of the nation. A state of emergency could not last longer than sixty days but could be renewed repeatedly. During such a time, the armed forces retained control of internal order. Guarantees of freedom of movement and of assembly, and freedom from arbitrary or unwarranted arrest and seizure were suspended. Constitutional guarantees could also be suspended during states of siege, defined as an invasion, a civil war, or imminent danger that one of these events may occur. At least half of the nation lived under state-of-emergency conditions beginning in the second half of the 1980s, owing to the increase in insurrectionary activities by the nation's two major guerrilla groups.


Peru - The President


The president, who must be Peruvian and over thirty-five years of age, was elected to a five-year term by direct popular vote, along with the first and second vice presidents. The president could not serve two consecutive terms.

The constitutional president had a wide range of powers and served as chief of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. He had the power to appoint members to the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Court of Justice, submit and review legislation enacted by Congress, rule by decree if so delegated by the Congress, declare states of siege and emergency, and dissolve the Chamber of Deputies, if it voted to censure the Council of Ministers three times in one term of office.

In practice, the constitutional president had even more power, as he had a remarkable amount of freedom to rule by decree. Hernando de Soto, an adviser to the Fujimori government, stated in October 1988 that 95 percent of Peruvian laws were passed by presidential decree. Article 211 of the constitution gave the president the authority "to administer public finances, negotiate loans, and decree extraordinary measures in the economic and financial fields, when the national interest so mandates and with responsibility to give account to Congress." An extraordinary number of measures--134,000 per five-year mandate, or 100 per working day--were passed in this manner in the 1970s and 1980s. In the words of De Soto, "every five years we elect a dictator".

As no midterm elections for Congress were held, opposition parties had no means of strengthening their position once the president was elected. Moreover, local and regional governments have remained underdeveloped and largely dependent on the central government for resources. Thus, power has remained concentrated in the central government. As the president could bypass Congress with relative ease and rule by decree, power was even more centralized in the persona of the chief executive. Without consecutive reelection or midterm elections, there was no mechanism by which to make the president accountable to the electorate.

Under the Fujimori government, De Soto was instrumental in initiating a reform of this process, the Democratization of the System of Government, which required laws to be submitted to public referendum before they could be passed. A watered-down version of this reform was passed in March 1991. Although this version was not expected to have notable effects on the actual process, the debate over reform played an important role in heightening public awareness of the accountability issue.

The Council of Ministers consists of a prime minister and the specific sectoral ministers, in areas such as economics, education, health, and industry. In 1986, during the government of Alan García Pérez (1985-90), a Ministry of Defense was created, unifying the three armed forces under the auspices of one ministry. Prior to this, the army, navy, and air force each had its own ministry. The ministers could be called to appear in Congress for an interpellation (interpelación) at any time, as could the entire cabinet (the latter no more than three times per term). It is traditional for all ministers to resign if the prime minister resigns.

It has also been traditional for the prime minister to serve concurrently as economics minister, although there have been several exceptions. After the resignation of a very popular and powerful prime minister, Juan Carlos Hurtado Miller, in February 1991, President Fujimori separated the posts of prime minister and minister of economy, appointing Carlos Torres y Torres and Carlos Boloña Behr, respectively, to those positions. The president was purportedly uncomfortable with the degree of power that Hurtado Miller had and wanted to retain firmer control of the cabinet in general and economic policy in particular. At the same time, Fujimori combined the positions of prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. In a strong presidential system such as Peru's, the position of prime minister, without control of some other functional ministry, is a relatively impotent one.


Peru - The Legislature


The legislature had two houses: a Senate composed of 60 members and a Chamber of Deputies composed of 180 members. Members of Congress were elected to five-year terms of office, which ran concurrently with those of the president and vice presidents. Members of both chambers had to be native Peruvians; senators had to be at least thirty-five years of age; deputies, twenty-five. There was no prohibition on the reelection of congressional representatives.

Congress had the power to initiate and pass legislation; interpret, amend, and repeal existing legislation; draft sanctions for violation of legislation; approve treaties; approve the budget and general accounts; authorize borrowing; exercise the right of amnesty; and delegate the legislative function to the president. A vote of two-thirds of each house was required to pass or amend legislation. The constitution mandated a balanced budget. If Congress did not come up with a balanced budget by December 15 of each year, the president promulgated a budget by executive decree. Congress convened twice annually, from July 27 to December 15 and again from April 1 to May 31.

Members of Congress were elected according to their position on party lists, rather than on the basis of local or regional representation, and thus did not have a strong regional or executive base of support. This is not to say that they had no regional representation. Whereas members of the Senate were elected by regions, members of the Chamber of Deputies were distributed in accordance with the d'Hondt system of proportional representation, which is based primarily on electoral density, with at least one deputy from each district.

Voters cast votes for a particular party, which presented a list of candidates in numerical order of preference. Voters were allowed to indicate a first-choice candidate, and these votes were tallied as "preferential votes," which might determine a candidate's position on the list in future elections, or which region he or she represents. According to the percentage of votes per region or department, a certain number of seats were allotted in the Congress for that party. A candidate's position on the party list determined whether or not he or she obtained a congressional seat. There was, however, no direct regional representation in the central government, a situation that would not be changed by the introduction of regional governments, as their role was to be strictly limited to the regions.

Congress had the power to censure the Council of Ministers and to demand information through interpellation. Yet, this gave it more of a reactive power than anything else. If the Chamber of Deputies used its vote of no confidence three times, the president could dissolve the body. Although Congress could make life difficult for the executive branch through censure, interpellation, or the creation of special investigative commissions, these processes occurred largely after-the-fact.

Particularly with the increase in insurgent violence and the large proportion of the country under emergency rule, the power of the Congress to pass legislation with an impact on significant sectors of the population was increasingly limited. At times, though, after-the-fact processes had resulted in the halting or repeal of damaging legislation. For example, President García's decree nationalizing banks in July 1987 was repealed in late 1990, and President Fujimori's Decree Law 171, which legislated that all crimes committed by the military in the emergency zones be tried in military courts, was repealed in early 1991. In addition, the Congress's special investigative commissions on issues such as human rights and judicial corruption, although perhaps unable to have immediate impact on policy, have been quite successful at bringing such matters to public attention.

The discretionary power accorded the president was designed to avoid the stalemate that occurred prior to 1968, yet it resulted in a system that was highly concentrated in the power of the executive, with little or no public accountability and little significant input on the part of the legislature. Although the Congress could hold ministers accountable for their actions, there was little it could do, short of impeachment, to affect the operations of the president. The president, meanwhile, unconstrained by midterm elections or immediate reelection, had little incentive to build a lasting base of support in the legislature.


Peru - The Judiciary


The Supreme Court of Justice was the highest judicial authority in the nation. The twelve Supreme Court justices were nominated by the president and served for life. The nominations had to be approved by the Senate. The Supreme Court of Justice was also responsible for drawing up the budget for the judiciary, which was then submitted to the executive. The budget could be no less than 2 percent of the government's expenditures. Under the Supreme Court of Justice were the Superior Courts, which were seated in the capitals of judicial districts; the Courts of First Instance, which sat in provincial capitals and were divided into civil, criminal, and special branches; and the justices of the peace in all local centers.

Several other judicial functions are worthy of note. The public prosecutor's office was appointed by the president and was responsible for overseeing the independence of judges and the administration of justice, representing the community at trials, and defending people before the public administration. Public attorneys, who are also appointed by the president, defend the interests of the state. The office of the Public Ministry was made up of the attorney general and attorneys before the Supreme Court of Justice, Superior Courts, and the Courts of First Instance. Public attorneys defended the rights of citizens in the public interest against encroachment by public officials.

The National Elections Board established voting laws, registered parties and their candidates, and supervised elections. It also had the power to void elections if the electoral procedures were invalid. The six-member board was composed of one person elected by the Supreme Court of Justice, one by the Bar of Lima, one by the law faculty deans of the national universities, and three Peru's regional boards.

Although in theory the judicial system was independent and guaranteed at least minimal operating financial support, in practice this was far from the case. The system had been hampered by scarce resources, a tradition of executive manipulation, and inadequate protection of officials in the face of threats from insurgents and drug traffickers. Even without the existence of guerrilla movements, the system was inadequately staffed to deal with the number of cases from criminal violations. It was not uncommon for detainees to spend several years in prison awaiting a hearing. In addition, in the emergency zones, where guerrillas were operating, security forces have had virtual carte blanche in the areas of interrogation and detention, and suspects often have been held incommunicado. Imprisoned suspects awaiting trial have subsisted in medieval conditions. In 1990 the Ministry of Justice recorded 60 deaths from starvation and a backlog over several years of 50,000 unheard cases.

The executive branch traditionally manipulated the judiciary for its own purposes, using its ability to appoint and remove certain judges for its own political ends. For example, when a Superior Court judge ruled that President García's nationalization of Peru's banks was unconstitutional, García merely replaced him with a judge from his party, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana--APRA), who then ruled in his favor.

It also was common for known terrorists or drug traffickers to be released for "insufficient evidence" by judges with no protection whatsoever but with responsibility for trying those suspected of terrorism. Largely because of corruption or inefficiency in the system, only 5 percent of those detained for terrorism had been sentenced by 1991. Those responsible for administering justice were under threat from all sides of the political spectrum: guerrilla movements, drug traffickers, and military-linked paramilitary squads. Notable cases included the murder of the defense attorney for the SL's number two man, Osmán Morote Barrionuevo, by an APRA-linked death squad, the Rodrigo Franco Command; the self-exile of a public attorney after repeated death threats during his investigation of the military's role in the massacre of at least twenty-nine peasants in Cayara, Ayacucho Department, on May 14, 1988; a bloody letter-bomb explosion at the headquarters of the Lima-based Pro-Human Rights Association (Asociación Pro-Derechos Humanos--Aprodeh); and the March 1991 resignation of an attorney general of the military court martial, after he received death threats for denouncing police aid and abetment of the rescue by the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru-- MRTA) of one of its leaders, María Lucero Cumpa Miranda. The judicial terrorism was hardly surprising, given the lack of protection for judges dealing with terrorism cases; many of them normally rode the bus daily to work, totally unprotected. Finally, owing to neglect of the judicial system by successive governments, the Supreme Court of Justice lacked a significant presence at the national level.

In the context of widespread terrorism, what was legal in theory and what happened in practice had little to do with each other. As the situation increasingly became one of unrestrained violence, the capability of the judicial system to monitor the course of events was reduced markedly. In addition, the judicial system was unable to escape the loss of confidence in state institutions in general that had occurred among the Peruvian public. The discrediting of the judicial system was a significant step toward the total erosion of constitutional order.


Peru - Public Administration


Public administration in Peru, already one of the weakest on the continent as of 1968, has experienced a dramatic increase in the size of state enterprises and the number of civil servants. That increase has been accompanied by a gradual decrease in available funds to run the administration, partly because of the inefficiency of several of the state-sector enterprises. The Petroleum Enterprise of Peru (Petroleras de Perú--Petroperú), for example, lost US$700 million in 1987 alone. Tax collection has been virtually nonexistent, with the government having to rely on a tax base of 7 percent of gross national product (GNP), a figure comparable to Bangladesh's 8.6 percent and Uganda's 8.2 percent. Public expenditures per person were US$1,100 in 1975; in 1990 they were only US$180.

These trends were exacerbated markedly during the 1985-90 APRA government of García, as party patronage practices dominated the administration of the state, and the number of state employees increased from about 282,400 in 1985 to almost 833,000 in 1990, while government resources all but disappeared because of enormous fiscal deficits and hyperinflation. State-sector workers were not even paid during the last few months of the García government.

The result was a rise in corruption and inefficiency, and Peru had one of the most inefficient state sectors in the world. Improvements in the future were likely to be guided by budgetary constraints, as the resources simply did not exist to maintain the existing number of civil servants in the public administration. The short-term costs would be a cutback in already scarce public services and a possible increase in political protest among displaced civil servants. Most Peruvians simply did without the services that even a minimal public administration would normally offer, or else they found some way of attaining them in the informal sector, usually at a much higher price.


Peru - Local and Regional Government


Municipal Governments

The process of independent municipal government was initiated with the first nationwide municipal elections in December 1963. This process was halted by twelve years of military rule after 1968, but was reinitiated with the November 1980 municipal elections. Each municipality has been run autonomously by a municipal council (consejo municipal), a provincial council (consejo provincial), and a district council (consejo distrital), all of whose members were directly elected. Municipalities had jurisdiction over their internal organization and they administered their assets and income, taxes, transportation, local public services, urban development, and education systems.

Yet, the autonomy of municipalities may have been reduced by their financial dependence on the central government. Their funds have come primarily from property taxes, licenses and patents required for professional services, market fees, vehicle taxes, tolls from bridges and roads, fines, and donations from urban migrant clubs. In the majority of municipalities, where the bulk of the inhabitants are poor, those with legal title to a home are in the minority; few people even own their own vehicles; roads are not paved; and there is a dramatic shortage of basic services, such as water and electricity. Most municipalities can hardly generate the revenue to cover operating costs, much less to provide desperately needed services. Thus, a degree of dependence on the central government for resources may limit somewhat the potential for autonomous initiative. Although this is hardly unique in Latin America,the shortage of resources in Peru is particularly extreme.

The municipal process has also come under substantial threat from the SL. An important component of its strategy was to sabotage the 1989 municipal and presidential elections. The group launched a ruthless campaign in which elected officials or candidates for electoral offices were targeted. During the 1985- 89 period, the SL assassinated 45 mayors. In a campaign of violence prior to the 1989 elections, it killed over 120 elected officials or municipal candidates, resulting in the resignation or withdrawal of 500 other candidates. In December 1988, dozens of Andean mayors resigned, citing lack of protection from terrorist threats; many rural towns were left with no authorities whatsoever. Voters were also threatened with having their index fingers chopped off by the SL. The threats were most effective in the more remote regions, such as Ayacucho, where null and blank voting in the 1990 elections was the highest in the country.

Regional Governments

The constitution of 1979 mandated the establishment of regional governments in Peru. Regionalization was part of the original APRA program of the 1920s. In 1988 the APRA government finally imitated the process with a law providing for the creation, administration, and modification of regions, which would replace the former departments. Between 1987 and 1990, the APRA government also issued corresponding laws creating eleven of the twelve regions called for under law, with the Lima/Callao region remaining under negotiation. In 1991 debates in Congress continued on the Lima/Callao and San Martín regions, with the latter voting to separate from La Libertad Department. The highly politicized debates centered on whether senators should be elected by region or by national district, and on the method that regional assemblies are elected. Five of the regions held their first elections for regional assemblies on November 12, 1989, in conjunction with the municipal elections, and the other six regions held elections in conjunction with the April presidential elections.

By law each regional assembly consisted of provincial mayors (30 percent), directly elected representatives (40 percent), and delegates from institutions representative of the social, economic, and cultural activities of the region (30 percent). In 1990 APRA and the United Left (Izquierda Unida--IU) dominated the regions, with APRA controlling six, IU three, and the Democratic Front (Frente Democrático--Fredemo) only one.

The process of regionalization was more one of administrative shuffling than of substance. However, the regional governments faced the same resource constraints that substantially limited the ability of municipal governments to implement independent activities. The central government is in theory supposed to transfer funds and assets, such as state sector enterprises, to the regions, but in practice this has only happened piecemeal. This tendency had been exacerbated by the severity of the economic crisis and the poor fiscal situation inherited by the Fujimori government. The dynamic was made more conflictive as the regional governments were controlled by parties in opposition to the central government. The cutting of resources allocated to regional governments in the 1991 budget was a good indication of the constraints that regional governments would face for the foreseeable future. Moreover, the executive had taken back some powers that were originally given to the regions, such as control over the national tourist hotels. The regional governments, meanwhile, had heightened the debate with actions such as the refusal to pay the executive what was owed for electricity tariffs.


Peru - The Electoral System


Suffrage was free, equal, secret, and obligatory for all those between the ages of eighteen and seventy. The right to participate in politics could only be taken away when one was sentenced to prison or given a sentence that stripped a person of his or her political rights. No political party was given preference by the government, and free access to the governmentowned mass media was given in proportion to the percentage of that party's results in the previous election. The National Elections Board, which was autonomous, was responsible for electoral processes at the national and local levels.

National elections for the presidency and the Congress were held every five years. If no one presidential candidate received an absolute majority, the first- and second-place candidates were in a runoff election. The president could not be reelected for a consecutive term, but deputies and senators could be.

Direct municipal elections were held every three years. Regional governments were elected every five years. Elections of regional governments were held in conjunction with either the December 1989 municipal or April 1990 national elections.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the electoral process came under substantial threat from the SL, which made the sabotaging of elections an explicit goal. Despite terrorist threats in the 1990 presidential elections, voter turnout was higher than in 1985, with the exception of some emergency zones in the southern Sierra, where the abstention rate was as high as 40 percent. Null and blank voting was about 14.5 percent of the total in the first round in 1990 and 9.5 percent in the second.

The threat from the SL was such that in some remote rural towns, there were no local officials at all, because potential candidates were not willing to jeopardize their lives in order to run for office. Although there was no doubt that the SL failed to jeopardize the 1990 elections, it managed to pose a significant threat to the process, particularly in remote rural areas. Given the severity and brutality of the SL's threat, it was actually a credit to the Peruvian electoral process that elections were held regularly and with such high voter-turnout ratios, although fines for not voting were also a factor.




Until April 5, 1992, Peru had a multiparty system and numerous political parties, some of which had been in existence for several decades. Yet, in 1990 the Peruvian electorate by and large rejected established parties and voted for a virtual unknown from outside the traditional party system. Alberto Fujimori's rapid and sudden rise to power and the resulting government with no political party base signified a crisis for Peru's party system, and a crisis of representation more generally. These crises resulted from the severity of the socioeconomic situation, and also from the poor performance of several of the traditional parties in government.

American Popular Revolutionary Alliance

APRA, Peru's oldest and only well-institutionalized party, was founded by Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre in Mexico City in May 1924. The APRA program espoused an anti-imperialist, Marxistoriented but uniquely Latin American-based solution to Peru's and Latin America's problems. APRA influenced several political movements throughout Latin America, including Bolivia's Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario--MNR) and Costa Rica's National Liberation Party (Partido Liberación Nacional--PLN). Years of repression and clandestinity, as well as single-handed dominance of the party by Haya de la Torre, resulted in sectarian and hierarchical traits that were analogous to some communist parties. In addition, opportunistic ideological swings to the right by Haya de la Torre in the 1950s, in exchange for attaining legal status for the party, resulted in an exodus of some of APRA's most talented young leaders to the Marxist left. These shifts created cleavages between APRA and the rest of society, and were significant obstacles to democratic consensus-building during APRA's 1985-90 tenure in government.

In any case, the party maintained a devoted core of followers that remained permanent party loyalists. In May 1989, APRA chose as its standard bearer Luis Alva Castro, a long-time rival to President García. APRA was as much a social phenomenon as a political movement, with a significant sector of society among its membership whose loyalty to the party and its legacy was unwavering. Despite APRA's disastrous tenure in power, in the first round of the 1990 elections it obtained 19.6 percent of the vote, more than any other of the traditional parties.


Peru - Popular Action


Fernando Belaúnde Terry founded Popular Action (Acción Popular--AP) in 1956 as a reformist alternative to the status quo conservative forces and the controversial APRA party. Although Belaúnde's message was not all that different from APRA's, his tactics were more inclusive and less confrontational. He was able to appeal to some of the same political base as APRA, primarily the middle class, but also to a wider base of professionals and white-collar workers. The AP had significant electoral success, attaining the presidency in 1963 and 1980, but the party was more of an electoral machine for the persona of Belaúnde than an institutionalized organization. In addition, whereas in the 1960s the AP was seen as a reformist party, by the 1980s--as Peru's political spectrum had shifted substantially to the left--the AP was positioned on the center-right. With the debacle of the second Belaúnde government, the AP fared disastrously in 1985, attaining only 6.4 percent of the vote. In 1990 the AP participated in the elections as a part of the conservative coalition behind Mario Vargas Llosa and suffered, as did all political parties, an electoral rejection.


Peru - The Christian Democrats


The Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano-- PDC) was a relatively small, center-right party influenced by Christian Democratic thought. Slightly more conservative than the AP, the PDC, which was founded in 1956, also was perceived to be more to the right as Peru's spectrum shifted left. The PDC on its own was not able to garner an electoral representation of over 10 percent after 1980. A splinter group, the Popular Christian Party (Partido Popular Cristiano--PPC), was founded by Luis Bedoya Reyes (the mayor of Lima from 1963 to 1966) in 1966.


Peru - The Democratic Front


The AP and the PPC together provided the organizational basis for Mario Vargas Llosa and his independent Liberty Movement (Movimiento de Libertad). Vargas Llosa, who entered politics to protest García's nationalization of Peru's banks in 1987, started out as an independent, backed by the Liberty Movement. In late 1988, however, Vargas Llosa made a formal alliance, known as Fredemo, with the AP and the PPC, because he felt this provided him with a necessary party organizational base. By doing so, he alienated several members of his own coalition, including one of his primary backers, Hernando de Soto, who felt that Vargas Llosa was allying with the "traditional" right. Analysis of the electoral results indicated that the majority of voters were also reluctant to support Peru's traditional, conservative politicians. The Fredemo campaign spent inordinate amounts of money on advertising--US$12 million, versus US$2 million spent by the next highest spender, APRA. This, in conjunction with the use in television campaign advertisements of white, foreign-born singers, revealed how these parties continued to represent the interests of the nation's elite, who were of European ancestry, and how out of touch they were with the nation's poor, who were of indigenous heritage.


Peru - The Left


The 1990 results also demonstrated that the population was unwilling to vote for the nation's hopelessly divided left. Split into Leninist, Maoist, Marxist, Trotskyite, and Socialist camps, the left in Peru had been severely fragmented since its origins. It had its first experience as a legally recognized electoral force in the 1978-80 Constituent Assembly, in which the left made up approximately one-third of the delegates. Despite its relative strength at the grassroots level, the left was unable to unite behind one political front in the 1980 elections, and it contested the elections as nine separate political factions. This limited its potential in those elections and played into the hands of Belaúnde. The left together attained a total of 16.7 percent of the vote; APRA, divided and leaderless after the death of Haya de la Torre, garnered 27.4 percent; Belaúnde won 45.4 percent.

Shortly after the 1981 elections, the majority of the factions of the Socialist, Marxist, and Maoist left (with the obvious exception of the SL, which had gone underground in the early 1970s), formed the United Left (IU) coalition. By 1986, under the leadership of Alfonso Barrantes Lingán, the IU was strong enough to take the municipality of Lima, as well as to become the major opposition force to the APRA government. Barrantes had been the runner-up in the 1985 national elections, winning 22.2 percent of the vote.

Yet, there were irreparable divisions from the outset between the moderate Barrantes faction, which remained committed, first and foremost, to democracy, and the more militant factions, which were sympathetic to, if not overtly supportive of, "armed struggle" as a potential route. The existence of two active guerrilla movements made this a debate of overriding importance. Although much of the militant left condemned the brutal tactics of the SL, they remained sympathetic with and indeed often had ties to the more "conventional" tactics of the MRTA.

This breach came to a head in 1989, when Barrantes, the most popular politician the left had in its ranks, and the bulk of the moderates split off and formed the Leftist Socialist Accord (Acuerdo Socialista Izquierdista--ASI). The larger and bestorganized parties, including the radical Mariateguist Unified Party (Partido Unificado Mariateguista--PUM) and the Peruvian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Peruano--PCP), remained in the IU. A divided left quarrelling over ideological differences hardly seemed the solution to Peru's quagmire in 1990. In the 1990 elections, the left had its poorest showing since the formation of the IU, with the ASI and IU together garnering less than 12 percent of the vote.


Peru - Change '90


Cambio '90 only entered the Peruvian political spectrum in early 1990, but by June 1991 it was the most powerful political force in the nation. Cambio's success hinged largely on the success of its candidate for the presidency, Alberto Fujimori, an agricultural engineer and rector of the National Agrarian University (Universidad Nacional Agrario--UNA) in Lima's La Molina District from 1984 to 1989. Fujimori's appeal to a large extent was his standing as a political outsider.

At the same time, Cambio's success was also attributed largely to its eclectic political base and its active grassroots campaign. Cambio's two main bases of support were the Peruvian Association of Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses (Asociación Peruana de Empresas Medias y Pequeñas--Apemipe) and the informal sector workers who associated their cause with Apemipe, and the evangelical movement. Less than 4 percent of the Peruvian population was Protestant, but the Evangelicals were extremely active at the grassroots level, particularly in areas where traditional parties were weak, such as the urban shantytowns and rural areas in the Sierra. Although Cambio only began activities in January 1990, by the time of the elections it had 200,000 members in its ranks.

However, Cambio's success at the polls did not translate into a lasting party machinery. Cambio was much more of a front than a political party, and its ability to hold together was called into question within a few weeks after attaining power. Cambio's two bases of support had little in common with each other except opposition to Vargas Llosa. Their links to Fujimori were quite recent and were ruptured to a large extent when Fujimori opted, out of necessity, for an orthodox economic shock program. Less than six months into his government, Fujimori broke with many of his Cambio supporters, including the second vice president and leader of the Evangelical Movement, Carlos García y García, and Apemipe. The latter became disenchanted with Fujimori because small businesses were threatened by the dramatic price rises and opening to foreign competition that the "Fujishock" program entailed.


Peru - Nonparty Organizations


The rapid rise of Cambio reflected a more far-reaching phenomenon in Peru: the growth of extrasystem democratic political activity. In conjunction with the rise in economic importance of the informal sector was a rise in activity and importance of a host of "informal" political groups: neighborhood organizations, communal kitchens, popular economic organizations, and nongovernment organizations. Although originating largely outside the realm of traditional parties and politics, these groups became critical actors in local-level democratic politics. Usually autonomous and democratic in origin and structure, they were often wary of political parties, which attempted to co-opt them, or at least to elicit their support for wider-reaching political goals. These organizations were primarily concerned with micro-level survival issues, such as obtaining basic services like water and electricity. They tended to support political parties as a convenient way to attain their goals, but just as easily withdrew that support when it did not provide tangible ends. They had a tendency, but by no means a constant one, to vote for parties of the left. This could be explained in part by the Peruvian left's approach to grassroots movements, which was usually--but not always--less sectarian and hierarchical than that of traditional parties, such as APRA.

Thus, the relations that informal groups had with political parties were by no means simple or clear-cut. As the varied results from the 1980-90 elections demonstrate, the urban poor had a tendency, which was not without shifts, to vote for the left. They had few binding ties to political parties, and were quite willing to vote for nonparty actors, from Manuel A. Odría (president, 1948-50, 1950-56) in the 1950s to Ricardo Belmont (as mayor of Lima in 1989) and Fujimori in 1990. Because the urban poor's need for basic services was so grave, their vote was most often determined by the most credible promise for basic-service delivery. Broader political goals of the parties were only a concern once basic needs had been met. Still, the gap between these groups and parties was significant. Parties play a role in virtually all consolidated democracies, and the difficulties of governing a fragmented society and polity such as Peru's became increasingly evident as the Fujimori government was forced to implement unpopular economic policies in the absence of an organized political base.

Electoral defeats usually trigger internal party changes and democratization. In 1990 all Peruvian parties faced electoral losses. The parties were well aware of the need to reform in order to remain politically viable entities. In early 1991, the Christian Democrats, for example, launched a process of internal party reform and an evaluation of their relations with groups where their support base was weak, such as the shantytowns. The left underwent a process of ideological and strategic reflection at approximately the same time. Most of the other political parties likely would have followed suit. To the extent that parties failed to reform to adapt to new political realities and to the needs and strategies of the plethora of grassroots groups and local organizations in Peru, a crisis of representation in Peruvian democracy, if and when it was restored, appeared more likely for the foreseeable future, threatening its viability.




The Military

The military in Peru has traditionally played an influential role in the nation's politics, whether directly or indirectly. Prior to the 1968 revolution, the military was seen as caretaker of the interests of conservative elites, and its involvement in politics usually entailed the repression of "radical" alternatives, particularly APRA. An APRA uprising and brutal military retaliation in Trujillo in 1932 initiated a long period of violence and strained relations between the two. As late as 1962, when General Ricardo Pérez Godoy led a military coup to prevent Haya de la Torre from becoming president, the military was willing to resort to extraconstitutional means to prevent APRA from coming to power.

By 1962, however, it was evident that the military was no longer solely the preserver of elite interests, and that it was increasingly influenced by a new military school of thought, the National Security Doctrine, which posited that development and social reform were integral to national security. The Advanced Military Studies Center (Centro de Altos Estudios Militares-- CAEM) in Lima was a proponent of this philosophy in the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, the Peruvian military's involvement in fighting guerrilla uprisings in the southern Sierra in the mid1960s gave many officers a first exposure to the destitute conditions of the rural poor, and to the potential unrest that those conditions could breed.

Thus, the military's 1968 intervention was far from a typical military coup. Rather, it was a military-led attempt at implementing far-reaching economic and social reforms, such as the Agrarian Reform Law of 1969 and the Industrial Community Law of 1970. The military's lack of understanding of civil society, demonstrated by its authoritarian attempts to control popular participation through a government-sponsored social mobilization agency, the National System for Supporting Social Mobilization (Sistema Nacional de Apoyo a la Mobilización Social--Sinamos), was largely responsible for the failure of its reforms. When the military left power in 1980, it left a legacy of economic mismanagement, incomplete reforms, and a society more radicalized and politicized than when it had taken over.

Yet, the military's revolutionary experiment changed the image of the institution, as well as its own views about the benefits of direct government control. It was, at least for the foreseeable future, immune from direct intervention in politics. It was no longer seen, however, and no longer perceived itself, as a monolithic conservative institution, but rather as the institution that had attempted to do what no political force had been able to do: radically transform the nation's economy and society. Its failure may have strengthened the voice of conservatives within its ranks, but it retained the awareness that social reform and economic development were critical to Peru's social stability and ultimately its national security. And as keeper of national security, it, more than any other force in the nation, was constantly reminded of this by the presence of the SL and other insurgent groups.

The large proportion of the country under state of emergency rule, coupled with the military's desire to fight against the SL unconstrained by civilian control, had understandably created tensions between successive civilian governments and the military. As in the case of several other transitions to democracy in Latin America, the Peruvian military took precautions to protect its institutional viability and to increase its strength vis-à-vis civilian government. From the outset, the Belaúnde government was forced to accept certain conditions set by the military pertaining to budgetary autonomy and states of emergency. Nineteen days before the surrender of power to the Belaúnde administration, the military passed the Mobilization Law, with minimum publicity in order to avoid civilian reaction. The law enabled the military to expropriate or requisition companies, services, labor, and materials from all Peruvians or foreigners in the country at times of national emergency. These times included cases of "internal subversion and internal disasters." In addition, because the Belaúnde government failed to take the SL seriously until it was too late, the government defaulted to the military in the design and implementation of a counterinsurgency strategy.

The García government began with a different approach. García fired three top generals responsible for civilian massacres in the emergency zones, and in a blow to traditional budgetary autonomy, halved an air force order for French Mirage jets. However, García's image suffered a major blow after he personally gave orders for the military to do whatever was necessary to put down a revolt of the SL inmates in Lima's prisons in June 1986, resulting in the massacre of 300 prisoners, most of whom had already surrendered. As the government lost coherence and as economic crisis and political stalemate set in, pressure on the military subsided, and its de facto control over the counterinsurgency campaign increased.

Because the Fujimori government had no organized institutional base, it was in a difficult position vis-à-vis the military. Although the military had no desire to take direct control of the government, it indicated the one scenario that would force it to intervene--if no one were running the state. Even at the height of the APRA government's crisis, when President García was in virtual hiding in the government palace, the military could rely on APRA to run the state. If a similar loss of control by President Fujimori occurred, there would be no such institution with a stake in running the state, a scenario that might force the military to act. Fujimori had clearly made a point of building strong support in one sector of the army and in return seemed to be backing increased independence for the military in the counterinsurgency war.

A good example of the military's independence was the passage of Decree Law 171, which stipulated that military personnel in emergency zones were on active duty full time and therefore could only be tried in military courts, which try only for neglect of duty and not for offenses, such as murder or torture. In addition, the government exacerbated tensions with some sectors of the military in September 1990 by refusing to sign a US$93- million aid agreement with the United States that included US$36 million in military aid. The Fujimori government felt the accord's coca eradication policy did not sufficiently take economic development into account. Some within the armed forces, which in general were desperately short of funds, felt that the government should take what it could get. In May 1991, Fujimori conceded to both United States and Peruvian military pressure and signed the accord.

In short, the situation under Fujimori was one of de facto military control, not just of the emergency zones, but of the areas of government that the military perceived to be its domain. Demonstrative of the military's increasing influence over certain areas of government was the fact that the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior were both headed by generals.


Peru - The Church


Although Peru does not have an official religion, the Roman Catholic Church--to which over 90 percent of Peruvians belonged-- is recognized in the constitution as deserving of government cooperation. Traditionally, the Roman Catholic Church has monopolized religion in the public domain.

In the Peruvian Catholic Church hierarchy, staunch conservatives, such as Archbishop Juan Landazúri Ricketts, wielded a great deal of influence. Six of the total eighteen bishops, including Landazúri, belonged to the ultraconservative Opus Dei movement. At the same time, the founder of liberation theology, Gustavo Gutiérrez, was a member of the official church in Peru, and liberation theology had a strong presence at the grassroots level. Unlike Brazil, where the official church could be described as liberal and critical of the more conservative Vatican, or Colombia, where the church was a loyal follower of the Vatican's policies, in the Peruvian Church hierarchy both trends coexisted, or at least competed for influence. Conservatives followed the dictates of Pope John Paul II, a strong proponent of theological orthodoxy and vertical control of the church. This contrasted sharply with the progressives in the Latin American church, who espoused the mandate of Vatican II, which exhorted the clergy to become actively involved in humanity's struggle for peace and justice, and to help the poor to help themselves rather than accept their fate.

At the grassroots level, the church was extremely active at organizing neighborhood organizations and self-help groups, such as communal kitchens and mothers' clubs. Church activities at this level had little to do with theoretical debates at higher levels, although they tended to emanate from the more progressive sectors within. Church-related organizations, such as Caritas (Catholic Relief Services), were active in providing local efforts with donations of food and funds from abroad. Indeed, Caritas had a nationwide network of coverage superior to or at least rivaling that of any state ministry or institution.

In addition to Caritas, the other major nongovernment organizer of communal kitchens and mothers' clubs in Lima was the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which reflected the increasing importance of the Evangelical Movement. Although only about 4.5 percent of Peru's population was Protestant, the Evangelical Movement was extremely active at the grassroots level, and, as aforementioned, was critical to the victory of Fujimori and Cambio '90 in poor areas. The Catholic Church hierarchy felt sufficiently threatened by the Evangelicals' support for Fujimori that it unofficially backed Vargas Llosa, an agnostic, against Fujimori, a Catholic.

The church, to the extent that it was an organizer of the poor, had increasingly come into conflict with the SL. Initially, the SL paid little attention to the clergy. In Ayacucho, for example, where the traditionally oriented church hierarchy had little involvement with social issues, the church was of little relevance to the SL. However, in the late 1980s, the SL's strategy shifted, and the group became more concerned with the church's organizational potential. The SL had a more difficult challenge in organizing support, particularly in areas where the church had been active in encouraging close community bonds, such as parts of Cajamarca and Puno. In such areas, as in the shantytowns surrounding Lima, clergy had increasingly become targets of SL assassinations as well.

In the face of the weakening of other state institutions, the church's role, at least at the grassroots level, had increased in importance. Caritas was the primary mobilizer of food donations and aid during the most critical stage of the Fujimori government's shock stabilization plan. Although the government promised its own social emergency programs, none materialized, and the church surfaced as the primary vehicle for channeling aid to the poor. This activity increased the visibility of the clergy as a target of SL attacks, and posed difficult choices for members of the clergy who continued to operate in the regions where the SL had a strong presence--the majority of the areas where most of the poor of Peru resided.


Peru - Economic Associations


The major economic associations in Peru were the National Industries Association (Sociedad Nacional de Industrias--SNI), the National Confederation of Private Business (Confederación Nacional de Instituciones Empresariales Privadas--Confiep), and the Apemipe (Peruvian Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses). Traditionally, such organizations had played a minimal role in politics. In the 1980s, however, they became actively involved in the nation's politics.

García's national understanding (concertación) strategy called for cooperation between government and business in economic policy-making. Nevertheless, García bypassed organized business sectors, the foremost among them being Confiep, and dealt instead directly with the twelve most powerful businesspeople in the country, the so-called twelve apostles. Thus, when García threatened the entire private sector with his surprise nationalization of the nation's banks, Confiep became one of the most active supporters of the bankers protesting García's move, and subsequently of Vargas Llosa's Liberty movement. Meanwhile, two former presidents of Confiep--now senators Francisco Pardo Mesones of Somos Libres (We Are Free) and Ricardo Vega Llona of Fredemo--launched independent candidacies in the 1990 elections.

Ironically, Apemipe became politically active in opposition to Vargas Llosa and his proposed policies, which threatened the viability of many small-businesspeople. The former president of Apemipe, Máximo San Román, ran as first vice president for Cambio, and became president of the Senate.

Organized business, per se, has never been particularly influential in Peru. Instead, strong influence has been wielded by foreign companies, such as the International Petroleum Corporation (IPC), or by families, such as the Romeros and the Wieses, who had substantial holdings across a variety of industries. Yet with the economic situation in May 1991 and the substantial reduction of foreign investment, the domestic private sector had increased in its relative economic importance. Thus, the sector's tendency to use its organizations to influence political trends was likely to continue for the foreseeable future.


Peru - Labor Unions


The labor movement in Peru has traditionally been weak, and its fate, until 1968, was inextricably linked to APRA. Very much affected by the enclave or anti-union enterprises and by the rural or community background of many of its members, labor was unable to articulate a coherent set of class interests. APRA, with its organizational capacity and popular following, was perhaps the only existing mobilization vehicle for organized labor. APRA dominated the Confederation of Peruvian Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores del Perú--CTP), which it founded in 1944 and which was officially recognized in 1964. The major labor dispute was traditionally between the CTP and APRA, and there was a direct correlation between union activity and the legal status of APRA, which was usually banned by military governments. APRA was more concerned with using the labor movement for its own ends than with enhancing the objectives of organized labor. APRA curtailed strike activity, for example, during its years of collaboration with the government of Manuel Prado y Ugarteche (1939-45, 1956-62).

Union activity increased dramatically during the military years with the introduction of a new labor code and the Industrial Reform Law, culminating in the union-led general strikes of 1977 and 1978. Yet, the labor and industries laws, which made it more difficult to dismiss a worker in Peru than in any industrialized nation, acted as a major disincentive to formal sector employment. This, coupled with the dramatic economic decline of the 1980s, led to a substantial decrease in the relative power of labor unions by 1990.

After 1968 the communist labor movement, the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (Confederación General de Trabajadores del Perú--CGTP), was legalized and began to erode APRA's monopoly on union support, owing in part to the party's relinquishing its radical stance. The Federation of Workers of the Peruvian Revolution (Central de Trabajadores de la Revolución Peruana--CTRP), which was set up by the military as an attempt to control the workers' movement, never really got off the ground, particularly in the face of the powerful CGTP. In 1991 the CGTP remained the most important union confederation in Peru.

The traits that were held typical of APRA union support-- marginal, socially ambitious, and socially frustrated--began to characterize the Maoist left and its affiliated unions under the CGTP umbrella in the 1970s. These groups, such as the powerful teachers' union, the Trade Union of Education Workers (Sindicato nico de Trabajadores de la Enseñanza--SUTEP), and the miners' confederation, the National Federation of Syndicated Mining and Metallurgical Workers of Peru (Federación Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros y Metalúrgicos Sindicalistas del Perú-- FNTMMSP), were key actors in the general strikes that virtually brought down the military regime in the late 1970s. In addition, the expansion of state industries, each of which had its own affiliated union, substantially increased the number of organized workers.

By the early 1980s, economic decline began to erode the power of unions, as did the neoliberal strategy adhered to by the Belaúnde government. The APRA government completely bypassed organized labor, as it did organized industry in its concertación strategy. García's populist tactics left little room for organized labor. Although there was a high number of strikes by state sector workers during the García government, particularly during the last two "crisis" years, they were generally more defensive, in the face of economic decline, than political. Most of the general strikes that were called during the García government were largely a failure, attaining only minimal support.

One reason that organized labor was less able to pursue political goals was the SL, which launched several "armed strikes" in various cities throughout the García years. Although these had varying degrees of success, they rarely had union support, as supporting the strikes meant supporting the SL. Increasingly, street protest for political purposes signified support for armed insurrection, which the majority of unions rejected. Indeed, there were even violent clashes between the SL and the CGTP during one general strike.

The SL had its own affiliated union, the Class Movement of Workers and Laborers (Movimiento de Obreros y Trabajadores Clasistas--MOTC), which operated primarily in the industries along Lima's Central Highway (Trans-Andean Highway), the industrial belt of the city. Of the four major companies along this highway, the MOTC had made substantial inroads in three. The MOTC did not necessarily control unions, but was tenacious in its support of strikes and was able to establish a strong presence in these industries. Yet, it also created rifts in the labor movement in general, because many workers did not necessarily want to be affiliated with the SL. Indicative of the extent of conflict was the SL's killing of fifty-one union leaders, primarily mineworkers, between January and May 1989, and its assassination of a prominent textile leader in October 1989.

The one labor sector that was able to exert substantial pressure during the APRA government was the miners' federation, the FNTMMSP, which in 1989 staged a strike involving 90,000 miners and costing the government hundreds of millions of dollars in lost export earnings. Meanwhile, the federation was also targeted by the SL. Although able to infiltrate the union to some extent, staging armed strikes and attacking mining facilities, the SL was by no means able to gain control of it. Nevertheless, the SL's presence caused violence from both the left (there were clashes between the SL and nonsympathetic miners) and the right (the leader of the miners' federation was assassinated by the APRA- and military-linked paramilitary squad, the Rodrigo Franco Command). Finally, some critics felt that the government and the National Mining and Petroleum Company (Sociedad Nacional de Minería y Petróleo--SNMP) found the SL infiltration of the mines a convenient excuse for declaring a state of emergency in the region.

Only 15 to 20 percent of the labor force was unionized in 1990, making that force a rather privileged sector of the working class. Underemployment was as high as 75 percent; and only 9 percent of Lima's economically active population was fully employed.

The prospects for the union movement in Peru in the early 1990s were dismal at best. On the one hand, the economic crisis made access to a job a luxury. Protest by organized labor was a last attempt at protecting salary levels that had deteriorated by over 50 percent in the 1985-90 period. On the other, the SL's drive to establish influence among organized labor presented a challenge to all the unions that wished to retain their independence.

In the event of an economic recovery and the adoption of a more realistic labor code that did not make access to a job a privilege for a small minority, organized labor might be able to enhance its status as the protector of workers rights rather than the proponent of political radicalism. Still, these developments also hinged on the defeat of the foremost proponent of radicalism, the SL--an unlikely scenario in the short term.


Peru - Students


Like the labor unions, the student movement has seen its rise and fall in Peru, and its fate was also inextricably linked to that of the SL. Compared with Peru's other social welfare indicators, Peru had a relatively high rate of literacy (80 percent), owing in large part to the strong emphasis that both Belaúnde regimes placed on education. The numbers of students enrolled in universities increased dramatically in the 1960s, and, consequently, so did their level of organization. Critics had justifiably contended that the emphasis on education was at the expense of other key social welfare expenditures, such as health.

Students had a strong tradition of political organization in Peru. For example, APRA began as a student and workers union. Student leaders, both of APRA and of the left, also played an important role in the protests against the military regime in the late 1970s. Congruent with the growth in relative strength of the Marxist left in politics was an increase in their presence in student organizations. In early 1991, there was a host of university student organizations, most allied with different factions of the left or with APRA. Some organizations were also allied with the SL or MRTA. Student supporters of the "new" right, such as the Liberty Movement, had also emerged, although they were by far in the minority. The increase in student organization had occurred in conjunction with the curbing of financing for universities and the shrinking of economic opportunities for university graduates, which had resulted in a radicalization of the university community in general. Although a few prestigious private universities continued to guarantee their students top degrees and professional opportunities, the quality of the education attained by large numbers of students at state universities was by no means universal and was often quite poor. Thus, many universities increasingly had become havens for frustration.

The extreme manifestation of this phenomenon was the birth and growth of the SL in the University of Huamanga (Universidad de Huamanga) in Ayacucho in the 1970s. Abimáel Guzmán Reynoso, a professor at the university and eventually director of personnel, was the founder and leader of the SL. The SL virtually controlled the university for several years, and students were indoctrinated in the SL philosophy. The university trained students, mainly from the Ayacucho area, primarily in education; but a degree from Huamanga was considered inferior to the Lima universities, and students had few opportunities other than returning to their hometowns to teach. As jobs for graduates were few and far between, becoming an active militant in the SL provided an opportunity of sorts.

An analogous phenomenon occurred in most of the Lima universities in the 1980s. Poorly funded and staffed, universities had far more students than they could adequately train. Employment opportunities had virtually disappeared, and university graduates often ended up driving taxis. The oldest university in the Americas, the state-funded San Marcos University, had become the center of Peru's student radicalism. SL graffiti covered the walls; police raids on the university yielded large caches of weapons and ammunition, as well as arrests. Professors who openly sympathized with the SL were the norm. In 1989 student elections, members of the student organization that supported the SL won in first place and controlled facilities such as the cafeteria.

Like union members, university students often were confronted with a dire predicament. They were the focus of SL organizational efforts, and at the same time their economic opportunities had virtually disappeared. Peaceful organizational efforts to improve their position had little potential in the current context, yet violent efforts were inextricably linked to the SL. Radicalism was in theory an appealing alternative, but in reality the ultraviolent form in which it manifested itself in the SL was hardly an alternative. Unfortunately, finding a job was also less and less a realistic alternative.


Peru - News Media


In 1990 Peru had one of the freest and most varied presses in the world, with virtually no curbs on what was published. The best-established and largest circulating newspaper was the slightly conservative daily, El Comercio. Expreso, owned by former minister of economy and finance Manuel Ulloa, was also slightly to the right of center. A variety of left-leaning dailies included Cambio, El Diario de Marka, and La República. Hoy was the pro-APRA daily. El Diário was a pro-SL newspaper that used to be published daily in Lima and circulated approximately 5,000 copies a day. The government closed it in late 1988, after the editor was accused of being a member of the SL, but it reappeared the next year as a weekly. A state-owned newspaper, El Peruano, published a daily listing of decrees and government proceedings. Oiga magazine was a right wing weekly, Caretas and were centrist weeklies. Quehacer was a bimonthly research publication sympathizing with the left.

Peru had a total of 140 state and privately owned television channels. Channel 4, the state-owned channel, provided relatively well-balanced news, as it had fierce competition from its private competitors. The popular weekly news program, "Panorama," which broadcast in-depth interviews with a wide range of intellectuals, politicians, and even guerrillas, was quite influential. The MRTA, for example, made its entrance into national politics when its takeover of Juanjuí in San Martín Department was aired on Panorama.

Peru's media were in general varied, competitive, and highly informative, and options from all sides of the political spectrum were available. Peru's population was a highly informed one, with even the poorest people usually having access to television. In early 1991, when the intelligence police found a video of Abimáel Guzmán Reynoso dancing in a drunken stupor, it was aired on national television. When in early 1991 President Fujimori passed Decree Law 171, the media played a major role in raising public awareness as to the impunity that it imparted onto the armed forces and the threat that it posed to investigative journalism in the emergency zones. The publicity was in part responsible for the repeal of the decree in Congress. Indeed, the extent to which freedom of the press continued to exist in Peru, despite the many other obstacles to democratic government, was an important and positive force for Peru's democracy.




Roots of the 1990-91 Crisis

There was no single explanation for the nature and severity of the crisis Peru faced in the early 1990s. The temptation to blame García and APRA was a strong one, given their dismal performance in government, but the crisis had much deeper roots. APRA inherited a nation beset with economic and social problems, but a political climate in which the consensus on the need for reform was unprecedented. The manner in which APRA governed resulted in an exacerbation of an existing breach between state and society. Consensus gave way to polarization and fragmentation of the party system, and economic policy fell prey to internal party politics, with disastrous results.


Peru - The Transition to Democracy


Like many other military establishments on the continent, the Peruvian military halted the civilian political process for a prolonged period of time (1968-80), attempted major structural economic change without a great deal of success, accumulated a large debt without public accountability, and then turned the political system back over to the same politicians it had previously ousted. The transition to democratic government, meanwhile, raised popular expectations that a fragile new democracy with severely constrained resources could hardly hope to meet.

The 1980 elections were won, ironically, by Fernando Belaúnde, whom the military had overthrown in 1968. His victory was no surprise, given that the elections were contested by a leaderless and divided APRA, recovering from the recent death of Haya de la Torre, and by a fragmented left that presented what political scientist Sandra Woy Hazelton described as a "cacophony" of candidates and parties. Although Belaúnde was a charismatic personality, he had spent the military years in exile, and was hopelessly out of touch with Peru's political realities in 1980. His government stuck stubbornly to a neoliberal, export-oriented economic model at a time when the world recession caused the prices of Peru's major export products to plummet. At the same time, the government fueled inflation through fiscal expenditures on major infrastructure projects, ignoring the better judgment of the president of the Central Reserve Bank (Banco Central de Reservas--BCR, also known as Central Bank). Popular expectations raised by the transition to democracy were soon frustrated.

Despite the SL's launching of activities in 1980 and its substantial presence in Ayacucho by 1982, Belaúnde refused to take the group seriously, dismissing them as narcoterrorists. When the government finally realized that the SL was a substantial security threat as a guerrilla and terrorist group, its reaction was too little, too late, and ultimately counterproductive. The government sent special counterinsurgency forces, the Sinchis, to the Ayacucho region, where they were given a free hand. The repressive nature of the military activities and the military's lack of understanding of the SL resulted in unwarranted repression against the local population. This, if anything, played into the SL's hands.

Natural disasters--floods and droughts--and economic decline and triple-digit inflation heightened the negative image of a government that was distant and detached from the population. This image was also exacerbated by Belaúnde's continuous insistence, amid economic crisis and the onset of guerrilla violence, that the solution to Peru's problems was the building of the Jungle Border Highway (la carretera marginal de la selva or la marginal), linking the Amazon region of the country to the coast. The severity of the economic crisis of the Belaúnde years and his government's poor public relations image opened the door for a major shift of the political spectrum to the left. By late 1983, García, as leader of the opposition in Congress, began to tap the increasing support for a radical solution to Peru's problems.


Peru - The García Government, 1985-90


By 1985 García and APRA were well-positioned to win the presidential elections. García was a charismatic orator who was convinced that he needed to "open up" APRA in order to win the nation's vote. He dropped all of APRA's sectarian symbols, such as the Aprista version of the Marseillaise and its six-pointed star, and replaced them with the popular song, "Mi Perú," and with slogans such as "my commitment is with all Peruvians." His attacks on neoliberal economics were directed primarily at foreign capital and the IMF, a convenient beating board because Peru was unlikely to get any capital inflow in the near future; he carefully avoided attacks on domestic capital. Thus, while cultivating the image of a radical among the poor, García also was perceived as the mal menor, or lesser evil, by the private sector, as opposed to the Marxist left. Finally, even conservatives recognized the need for reform in Peru by 1985, given the increasing presence of the SL. García defeated Alfonso Barrantes of the IU, taking 47.8 percent of the vote versus 22.2 percent for the IU. A run-off election (required if an absolute majority is not attained) was not held because Barrantes declined to run.

The first two years of the APRA government were a honeymoon of sorts. García enjoyed unprecedented popularity ratings of over 75 percent, owing in part to his populist personality and oratorical talents, and in part to the concertación strategy the government pursued. It was highly successful as a short-term strategy for a severely depressed economy, but obviously had its limits as a long-term plan. The private sector, meanwhile, gave García and his concertación strategy cautious support.

By mid-1987 it was clear that concertación had run its course, and a change of emphasis was necessary. At the same time, García was also under pressure from the left and from some sectors within his own party to implement more radical structural change. In June he suffered a defeat within the party when his main rival, former prime minister Luis Alva Castro, was elected president of the Chamber of Deputies. García at this point opted for a radical measure that was intended to retake the political initiative from his rivals. In his annual independence day address on July 28, 1987, García announced the surprise nationalization of the nation's banks. The measure was designed with a small group of advisers in the two weeks prior to its announcement, and few members of the APRA party or government were consulted. For example, the octogenarian vice president of the republic, Luis Alberto Sánchez, learned of the measure just prior to García's announcement, and he was told by none other than former president Belaúnde. The measure in and of itself may not have been all that significant because only 20 percent of the nation's banks remained in private hands in 1987. However, the manner in which García presented it clearly indicated a change of political course. His rhetoric pitted the rich, lazy bankers against the poor, exploited people, and from that point on he began to speak of the "bad" capitalists. He launched a tirade of attacks on the domestic private sector, using precisely the kind of rhetoric he had avoided in the campaign and for the first two years of his presidency.

The private sector's fragile trust in García and the historically confrontational APRA was undermined. This was exacerbated by the manner in which APRA silently supported the measure, and those members of the party who spoke out against the measure were expelled. Foremost among these was the influential senator Jorge Torres Vallejo, who ironically was the person who launched García's candidacy as secretary general of APRA in 1983.

The measure marked the beginning of the end. Political polarization set in, and the government increasingly lost coherence. The then moribund right found a cause and a candidate for its renovation, and latched onto the protest movement against the measure that was launched by Mario Vargas Llosa and his Liberty Movement. The left had no real cause to support the measure or to ally with the highly sectarian APRA. The poor, who lacked savings accounts, were hardly likely to rally to García's cause. The private sector withdrew its plans for investment as economic policy-making fell prey to political infighting in APRA and to García's own erratic behavior. In September 1988, the time when an austerity package was announced, García went into hiding in the palace and did not appear for a period of over thirty days.

Although reserves had run out, the government continued to maintain unrealistic subsidies, such as the five-tier exchange rate, funded by a growing fiscal deficit, which fueled hyperinflation. This was exacerbated by the constant resource drain from inefficient state enterprises, whose bureaucracy increased markedly during the APRA government. The combination of hyperinflation and public sector debts that could not be paid resulted in a state that virtually ceased to function. Living standards dropped dramatically as real wages were eroded by inflation, and services for the public, such as public hospital staff, were curbed markedly. By the end of the APRA government, shortages of the most basic goods, such as water and electricity, were the norm. Economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, on a visit to Lima in June 1990, described the country as "slipping away from the rest of the world."

To make matters worse, a host of corruption scandals involving APRA became publicly evident at this point. The atmosphere of chaos and economic disorder, the virtual nonfunctioning of the state, and the perception of corruption in the highest ranks of government and law enforcement all served to discredit state institutions and political parties, particularly APRA.

Economic decline was accompanied by a dramatic surge in insurgent and criminal violence. In addition to violence from the SL and MRTA, there was a rise in death squads linked to the government and armed forces. These included the Rodrigo Franco Command. Deaths from political violence in the 1980s approached 20,000, and in 1990 alone there were 3,384, a figure greater than that from Lebanon's civil war that year. Peru also ranked as the country with the highest number of disappearances in the world. In the context of political violence and economic disorder, criminal violence also surged.


Peru - The 1990 Campaign and Elections


Although Alberto Fujimori was elected by a large popular margin, he had no organized or institutionalized base of support. There were countless theories as to why Fujimori was able to rise from virtual anonymity to the national presidency in the course of three months. More than anything else, the Fujimori tsunami, as it was called, was a rejection of all established political parties: the right, despite its refurbished image; the squabbling and hopelessly divided far left; and certainly the left-of-center APRA because of its disastrous performance in government. Fujimori was able to capture the traditional support base of APRA: small entrepreneurial groups and those sectors of the middle class for whom APRA was no longer an acceptable alternative, but for whom the conservative Fredemo was also unacceptable. In addition, Fujimori's success was attributed largely to a great deal of support at the grassroots level.

After serving as a UNA rector and host of a popular television program called "Concertando," Fujimori entered politics in 1989, running on a simple, if vague, platform of "Work, Honesty, and Technology." His appeal had several dimensions. First, his experience as an engineer, rather than a politician, and his lack of ties to any of the established parties clearly played into his favor. APRA's incoherent conduct of government had led to an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions; at the same time, the polarized political debate and the derogatory mudslinging that characterized the electoral campaign did not seem to offer any positive solutions. The right preached free-market ideology with a fervor and made little attempt to appeal to the poor. The left was hopelessly divided and unable to provide a credible alternative to the failure of "heterodox" economic policy. Thus, not only APRA was discredited, but so were all established politicians.

In addition, and key to his popular appeal, were Fujimori's nonelite origins as the son of Japanese immigrants. His Japanese ties also aroused some hopes, whether realistic or not, that in the event of his victory the Japanese would extend substantial amounts of aid to Peru. He capitalized on Vargas Llosa's lack of appeal to the poor by promising not to implement a painful "shock" economic adjustment program to end inflation, and with slogans like "un presidente como tú" ("a president like you"). The claim of this first-generation Japanese-Peruvian that he was just like the majority in a predominantly mestizo and native American nation seemed less than credible, and his vague promises of "gradually" ending hyperinflation seemed glibly unrealistic. Nevertheless, his message was much more palatable to an already severely impoverished population than Vargas Llosa's more realistic but bluntly phrased calls for a shock austerity program to end inflation. "El shock" had become a common term in the electoral campaign and among all sectors of society.

Fujimori's success was also enhanced by his rather eclectic political team, Cambio '90, which was extremely active in campaigning at the grassroots level. Cambio had an appeal at this level precisely because it was an unknown entity, and was not affiliated with the traditional political system.

In the first round of elections, Vargas Llosa attained 28.2 percent of the vote; Fujimori, 24.3 percent; the APRA, 19.6 percent; IU, 7.1 percent; and ASI, 4.1 percent. Null and blank votes were 14.4 percent of the total. It was then clear that the left and APRA would back Fujimori, if for no other reason than to defeat Vargas Llosa in the second round. Vargas Llosa was seen as a representative of the traditional, conservative elite, and thus was unacceptable for ideological reasons. In Luis Alva Castro's words to APRA: "Compañeros (partners), our support for Fujimori is a given, but there is no need to make an institutional commitment." A similar stance was taken by the left.

The support of the left and APRA virtually guaranteed Fujimori's victory in the second round, but it by no means signified an organized or institutionalized support base, either inside or outside Congress, which presented a formidable obstacle for an already uncertain future for the Fujimori government. The electoral campaign, meanwhile, was waged in extremely negative and ad hominem terms, and took on both racial and class confrontational overtones. It became a struggle between the "rich whites" and the "poor Indians," exacerbating the existing polarization in the system. The political mudslinging and personal attacks, first by Fredemo against APRA and President García, and then between the Fujimori and Vargas Llosa teams, offended the average voter.

The conduct of the 1990 electoral campaign, in conjunction with the prolonged period of political polarization that preceded it, severely undermined faith in the established system and the political parties and leaders that were a part of it. This, more than anything else, played into the hands of Fujimori, and was responsible for his victory. In the second round, he attained 56.5 percent of the vote over 33.9 percent for Vargas Llosa on June 10, 1990.

The Fujimori government came to power without a coherent team of advisers, a program for governing, or any indication of who would hold the key positions in the government. Fujimori's advisers were from diverse sides of the political spectrum, and he made no clear choices among them, as they themselves admitted. At the same time, he made it clear that he would re-establish relations with the international financial community, and that he was not interested in a radical economic program. How he would reconcile those goals, in the context of hyperinflation, with his promise not to implement a shock-stabilization plan was the cause of a great deal of uncertainty.

The 1990 electoral results reflected a total dissatisfaction and lack of faith on the part of the populace in traditional politicians and parties. Fredemo's dogmatic and heavy-handed campaign was partially to blame for undermining that faith, as were a succession of weak or inept governments for the past several decades. Yet, in the short-term, the disastrous failure of APRA, the country's only well-institutionalized political party, was most directly to blame. The results of the 1990 elections merely demonstrated the exacerbation that occurred from 1985 to 1990 of a preexisting breach between state and society in Peru. The rejection of traditional parties did not necessarily reflect a rejection of the democratic system. Instead, it reflected an ongoing evolution of participation occurring outside the realm of traditional political institutions, as well as the increased importance of autonomous local groups and the informal economy.

The 1990 electoral results also indicated a crisis of representation. Political parties play a fundamental representative role in virtually all consolidated democracies; their utility in formulating and channeling demands in both directions--from society to state and state to society--is an irreplaceable one. In Peru, as in many developing countries, demands on the state for basic services had clearly outpaced its ability to respond. Thus, the role of parties in channeling those demands, and--through the party platform or doctrine--indicating their relative importance, was critical. How Fujimori would govern a fragmented and polarized political system without an institutionalized party base remained unclear at best.


Peru - The Fujimori Government


In 1990 Peru's political spectrum and party system were polarized to an unprecedented degree. In addition, the vote for Fujimori was to a large extent a vote against the shock stabilization plan that Vargas Llosa had proposed to implement. After less than a month in government, however, Fujimori was convinced--both by domestic advisers and prominent members in the international financial community--that he had to implement an orthodox shock program to stabilize inflation and generate enough revenue so that the government could operate. During his visits to the United States and Japan in July 1990, it was made very clear to Fujimori that unless Peru adopted a relatively orthodox economic strategy and stabilized hyperinflation, there would be no possibility of Peru's reentry into the international financial community, and therefore no international aid. At this point, Fujimori opted for an orthodox approach and appointed Juan Carlos Hurtado Miller as minister of economy and prime minister. Later that month, many of Fujimori's original advisers, who were heterodox economists, left the Cambio team. Thus, on August 8, 1990, Fujimori implemented precisely the program that he had campaigned against.

The shock program was more extreme than even the most orthodox IMF economist was recommending at the time. Plans for liberalization of the trading system and for privatization of several state industries were made for the near future. Overnight, Lima became a city which had, in the words of several observers, "Bangladesh salaries with Tokyo prices."

Despite widespread fears that the measures would cause popular unrest, reaction was surprisingly calm for several reasons. First of all, the measures were so extreme that they made day-to-day economic survival the primary concern of the majority of the population, including the middle class. Taking time to protest was an unaffordable luxury. Second, street protest and violence were increasingly associated with insurrectionary groups and political violence, with which the average Peruvian had no desire to be associated. Third, the benefits from ending hyperinflation and recovering some sort of economic stability were immediately evident to Peruvians at all levels, even the very poor. Even several months after the shock, the most popular man in Peru was the architect of the program, Hurtado Miller. Although Fujimori's popularity suffered a decline after his first few months in office, it was not necessarily a result of the economic program. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, most people voted for Fujimori not only because of his vague promises, but also because of the perception that, unlike Vargas Llosa, he was much more a man of the people. Thus, his implementing an "antipopular" economic program was far more acceptable politically than Vargas Llosa's doing virtually the same thing.

Prospects for the Fujimori Government

In some ways, these trends signified positive prospects for the Fujimori government. The degree of consensus on the economic approach was remarkable for a country as polarized both ideologically and politically as Peru. Fujimori's original cabinet was an eclectic and pragmatic one, which included members of virtually all political camps. Despite this diversity, a consensus eventually emerged.

Yet, there were some extremely worrisome trends as well. In addition to the economic shock program, the government promised a social emergency program to protect the poorest by providing temporary food aid and employment. However, no such program materialized over a year into the government. Although this was explained in part by resource constraints, it was also explained, in large part, by lack of political will, as no one person had any bureaucratic responsibility for the needs of the poor.

In other countries implementing shock economic programs, temporary measures to compensate the poor have played important social welfare and political roles in making economic reform more acceptable and viable. In addition, they have played an important role in providing foreign donors with a single bureaucratic entity through which to channel necessary aid. The lack of such a program on any significant scale in Peru was unfortunate, as socioeconomic indicators had already deteriorated markedly prior to the adjustment program, and in areas where the threat of increasing insurrectionary violence was a realistic one.

Despite the new political dynamics, the tradition of centralized and authoritarian presidential leadership remained intact. Fujimori had a strong tendency to attempt to control his ministers and to appoint loyalists. Some of the most talented and independent-minded ministers left the cabinet after a few months because Fujimori undermined their authority. These included Carlos Amat y León y Chávez, the minister of agriculture; Gloria Helfer Palacios, the minister of education; Carlos Vidal Layseca, the minister of public health; and even Prime Minister Hurtado himself in March 1991. After Hurtado's resignation, Fujimori separated the positions of prime minister and economics minister, presumably so that he could have more relative control than he had with the popular Hurtado. Also telling was Fujimori's insistence on the appointment of Jorge Chávez Alvarez, a young and relatively inexperienced doctoral student, as president of the Central Bank, despite the misgivings of virtually all respected economists. Chávez was seen as a Fujimori loyalist through whom the president could manipulate and control the Central Bank.

In addition, Fujimori's need to make an "unholy" alliance with APRA in Congress to get measures passed acted as a barrier to the reform of the state sector. APRA had been the only political force to back the Chávez appointment, and it was widely perceived that Fujimori would have a political price to pay for that backing in the future. Indicative of the price was a debate within the Ministry of Education, in which Fujimori supported APRA against his own minister, Gloria Helfer. She was trying to trim the size of the ministry, which had grown to unrealistic proportions during the APRA government owing to its filling of posts for party reasons. The row resulted in the resignation of Helfer and a stalling of the reform of the public education sector.

The age-old tradition of centralism also prevailed. For financial reasons and lack of political will, the regionalization process was stalled. Under existing conditions, regional governments were little more than politicized bureaucracies.

Finally, and most worrisome, was the resurgence of another tradition in Peru--government reliance on the military for power. Fujimori lacked any institutionalized base and had cultivated strong ties with the military by granting it what it wished, as demonstrated by his attempt to legalize its impunity through Decree Law 171.

There are many plausible explanations for the autogolpe. The most significant one, which has been noted here, was Fujimori's lack of organized or party-based support, resulting in his increasing reliance on the armed forces and on rule by decree. By early 1992, APRA stopped supporting Fujimori and coalesced the opposition in Congress, somewhat ironically, under the leadership targeted by government repression after the coup, indicative of the extent to which the government felt threatened by APRA opposition. In March there had been a politically damaging scandal among Fujimori's close circle of advisors, in which his wife publicly accused his brother, his closest advisor, of misuse of foreign aid donations. Another of Fujimori's close advisors, Vladimiro Montesinos Torres, the de facto head of the National Intelligence Service (Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional--SIN), had been pressuring the president for some time to free the counterinsurgency struggle from judicial interference. This coincided with a major SL assault on the city of Lima. At the same time, relations with the United States were at an all-time low owing to disagreements over counternarcotics strategy, possibly leading Fujimori to conclude that there was not all that much to lose from jeopardizing relations with the United States.

There was the possibility that Fujimori would abide by the timetable that he set out and reinstate the parliament one year later. Yet, the undermining of the constitutional system had farreaching costs. First, democratic development is not attained by rescinding the constitution and the institutions of government whenever a crisis is perceived. Second, Fujimori had been able to pass virtually all the laws pertaining to his economic program by the decree powers awarded to him by the Congress; continuing the economic program was not the reason for its closing. If anything, the program was seriously jeopardized by the international isolation that the coup precipitated, owing to the critical role that international financial support played. Third, the elimination of important constitutional rights, such as habeas corpus, for over a year was likely to result in a worsening of Peru's already poor human rights record. The coup also played into the SL's strategy of provoking a coup in order to polarize society into military and nonmilitary camps. Finally, a yes or no plebiscite is a tool that has been used to establish popular support by a number of dictators, including Benito Mussolini and Ferdinand Marcos. Given short-term popular support for almost any kind of drastic solution to Peru's many problems, there was a very high risk that Fujimori and the military would use the plebiscite as a tool to justify further undermining Peru's constitutional system.

Peru was clearly in a critical situation, where extreme economic deterioration and spiraling political violence had to be reversed as a prerequisite to democratic consolidation. Neither was a simple process, and there was no guarantee that Peru's fragile institutions would survive the challenge; they were jeopardized severely by the measures taken on April 5, 1992. In the short term, in addition to the rapid restoration of constitutional democracy, an important first step would be a more visible and tangible commitment to the poorest sectors, which were suffering the most from the economic program, had the smallest margin for deterioration in their living standards, and were the primary focus of insurgent groups as well. The outbreak of a cholera epidemic in 1991 was a prime example of the extent to which social welfare infrastructure and other needs of the poor had been sorely neglected for several years. Otherwise, despite all good intentions on the economic front, the social peace necessary to reestablish and consolidate democratic government would be unattainable.




The emergence of highly nationalistic forces in Peru's political system during the 1960s was accompanied by a marked shift in the nation's approach to foreign relations. A desire to alter Peru's traditionally passive role in foreign affairs, which had led to what was perceived as inordinate influence by foreign countries--and particularly the United States--in the political and economic life of the nation, became a central objective of the Velasco Alvarado regime. During the 1970s, Peru's military government sought an independent, nonaligned course in its foreign relations that paralleled the mixed socioeconomic policies of its domestic reform program. Diplomatic dealings and foreign trade were thus diversified; official contacts with the nations of the communist world, Western Europe, and Asia were significantly expanded during the decade, while the United States' official presence receded from its once predominant position. Multilateral relations, particularly with Latin American neighbors that shared economic and political interests common to many Third World nations, also assumed a new importance.

Peru's foreign policy initiatives were undertaken in part as an effort to gain international support for the military government's experiment in "revolution from above." The initial success of many programs of the military government brought it considerable international prestige and thus, during the early 1970s, Peru became a leading voice for Third World nations. As the fortunes of the Peruvian experiment fell during the late 1970s, however, its international profile receded markedly. The Belaúnde government deemphasized further the nonaligned stance of the military government while working toward closer relationships with the United States and the nations of Latin America.

Foreign Relations Under García

Traditionally, Peru was an active and initiating member of regional multilateral organizations, such as the Andean Pact. Yet, the nation's economic crisis and García's loss of prestige, both within and outside Peru, forced the country to turn inward and abandon its high-profile stance. Peru's stance on the international front was influenced to a great extent by the rise and fall of García's anti-imperialist strategy. His antiimperialist and anti-IMF rhetoric, as well as his unilateral limitation of debt payments, placed a major strain on relations with the international financial community and the United States in particular.

Under Belaúnde, a de facto moratorium on debt service already had existed. By 1985 it was clear that no new capital was headed in Peru's direction, and that the country could not afford to pay its debt. García took an openly confrontational approach, with the hope that the rest of Latin America would follow. At the time, there were speculations that the threat posed by García was one reason the Ronald Reagan administration (1981-89) presented the Baker debt-reduction plan in October 1985.

Although García's debt policy limited payments to 10 percent of export earnings, in reality the government paid approximately 20 percent for the first few years, but then stopped making any payments at all. García's insistence on maintaining a confrontational stance, even after its political utility was exhausted, was counterproductive. On several occasions, accords in principle with the IMF were prepared with representatives of the APRA government and the IMF, and then cancelled at the last minute by García. García's stance initially had some appeal among Third World debtor countries, and a few even followed his example. As the limits to Peru's economic strategy became evident both at home and abroad, however, his stubborn adherence to the policy became the subject of ridicule rather than respect. Peru was declared ineligible for IMF funds in August 1986, and was threatened with expulsion from the organization in October 1989.

García also made heightening Peru's visibility in the Nonaligned Movement and in the Socialist International a priority. Ties were expanded with a number of Third World socialist nations, including Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe; and García took a staunchly pro-Sandinista position in the Central American conflict. Improving Peru's relations with its neighbors, particularly Ecuador and Chile, was also a priority early on. Although some productive discussions were held with Ecuador, including a historic visit by Peru's minister of finance to Quito in October 1985, progress was limited by competition with both the Ecuadorian and Chilean military establishments. García's attempts to curb military expenditures were not reciprocated by Chile, for example.

As the economic crisis in Peru deepened, meanwhile, García took a lower profile stance on the foreign policy front. Relations with the United States remained remarkably good despite García's stances on debt and on Central America. This was in part owing to Washington's desire to maintain good bilateral relations because of the threat of instability caused by the SL. Thus, foreign aid flows were maintained despite Peru's violation of the Brooke Alexander Amendment, which makes a country ineligible for United States aid if it is over a year late in repaying military assistance. García's willingness to collaborate, at least rhetorically, on the drug issue, in sharp contrast to his stance on debt, helped ameliorate relations. Finally, relations were maintained owing to a good working relationship between United States ambassador Alexander Watson and President García.

Peru's relations with its neighbors were strained also by the extent of the economic crisis and the cholera epidemic. In late 1989, over 6,000 Peruvians crossed the border to Chile in order to buy bread, which was scarce and expensive in Peru. Chile's dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (1973-90), when campaigning prior to the 1988 plebiscite, warned of the dangers of populist democracy by pointing out neighboring Peru. Contraband trade along the Chilean and Ecuadorian borders at times has been a contentious issue. Another concern were the thousands of Peruvians emigrating to neighboring countries seeking employment. The fear of the spread of subversion over neighboring borders also worried Peru's neighbors, a concern heightened by events such as the SL's assassination of a Peruvian military attaché in La Paz, and by the MRTA's support of the 19th of April Movement (Movimiento 19 de Abril--M-19), a Colombian guerrilla group.

Foreign Relations Under Fujimori

Fujimori set out to repair Peru's foreign relations, particularly with its creditors. He campaigned on, and was committed to, a strategy of "reinsertion" into the international financial community. This commitment forced him to change his adherence to "gradualist" economics and to open dialogue with the major multilateral institutions.

Peru's foreign relations situation changed dramatically with the April 5 self-coup. The international community's reaction was appropriately negative. Most international financial organizations delayed planned or projected loans, and the United States government suspended all aid other than humanitarian assistance. Germany and Spain also suspended aid to Peru. Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations, and Argentina withdrew its ambassador. The coup threatened the entire economic recovery strategy of reinsertion. In addition, the withdrawal of aid by key members of Peru's support group made the process of clearing arrears with the IMF virtually impossible. Yet, despite international condemnation, Fujimori refused to rescind the suspension of constitutional government, and the armed forces reasserted their support for the measures.

Even before the coup, relations with the United States were strained, because they were dominated by the drug issue and Fujimori's reluctance to sign an accord that would increase United States and Peruvian military efforts in eradicating coca fields. Although Fujimori eventually signed the accord in May 1991 in order to get desperately needed aid, the disagreements did little to enhance bilateral relations. The Peruvians saw drugs as primarily a United States problem, and the least of their concerns, given the economic crisis, the SL, and the outbreak of cholera.

The cholera outbreak at first resulted in neighboring countries' banning Peruvian food imports, further straining relations. Even after the ban was lifted for certain products, fear of the spread of cholera was confirmed by cases reported in Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, and Brazil.

By the early 1990s, economic trends in Latin America were moving increasingly toward free-trade agreements with the United States and regional market integration, such as the Southern Cone Common Market (Mercado Común del Sur-- Mercosur). Although the Andean Pact agreed to form a common market in late 1990, Peru's role, owing to the extent and nature of its crisis, remained marginal, at least in the short term. Fujimori was so overwhelmed with domestic problems early into his government, moreover, that he was unable to attend the Group of Eight meeting in late 1990.

Although Peru could have been eligible for special drugrelated assistance and trade arrangements with the United States under the Andean Initiative, Peruvian-United States relations were hardly smooth on the drug front during Fujimori's first year in office. Peru's eligibility for debt reduction and grants for investment-related reforms under the George H.W. Bush administration's Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, meanwhile, were restricted by its arrears with multilateral credit agencies and private banks.

On the debt front, relations with international institutions were improving, and after six months of negotiations, Peru was able to obtain the US$800-million bridge loan required to re-establish its borrowing eligibility from the IMF. Yet, Peru still had to pay US$600 million to international creditors. It seemed that for the foreseeable future, any credit inflows would merely be recycled to pay existing debts and arrears. Prior to the coup of April 5, 1992, however, almost all of the US$1.3 billion necessary to clear arrears with the IMF had been attained.

Peru had established a strong military relationship with the Soviets and Eastern Europe during the Velasco years, and was the Soviets' largest military client on the continent in the 1970s. Owing to a reliance on Soviet military equipment, this relationship has continued, although Peru has diversified its source of supply of weapons to countries ranging from France to North Korea. In addition, like its relationship with Cuba, Peru's relationship with the Soviets is certain to diminish in importance as both countries turn inward to deal with domestic crises and economic rather than strategic issues dominate the agenda. Reflecting this change is a new importance placed on relations with the United States and also with Japan, largely because of Fujimori's heritage and the emphasis that he himself placed on the Japanese role during the electoral campaign. More than anything else, Peru's foreign relations were expected to be dominated by the nation's need for foreign aid, capital, and credit, all of which hinged on the republic's solving its internal economic problems, cooperating with the United States on the drug issue, and dealing with the challenge from insurgent groups. Additionally, most of the international community remained unwilling to provide credit or aid until democratic government was restored.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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