Despite a history of authoritarian rule, Peru has established democratic political institutions and undergone multiple peaceful transfers of power in recent years. Corruption continues to be a serious concern. Indigenous groups suffer from inadequate political representation and exclusion from decisions on land use and other issues, though the government has taken some steps to address those problems in recent years. Protests and activism related to land use have often led to violence and the use of lethal force by police. While the media are active and largely privately owned, their independence is hampered by the threat of physical attacks and defamation charges, as well as ownership concentration.
- Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a center-right former prime minister, narrowly won the presidency in a June runoff against Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori.
- Fujimori’s Popular Force party won an absolute majority in the April congressional elections, taking 73 out of 130 seats.
- A series of corruption scandals led to the resignations of Popular Force secretary general Joaquín Ramírez in May and three advisers to Kuczynski in October.
Peru’s 2016 general elections were considered free and fair. The presidential race was hotly contested, with Keiko Fujimori leading a field of 10 candidates in the first round in April, then losing to Kuczynski in the June runoff by just 0.2 percentage points. However, Fujimori’s Popular Force party took 73 out of 130 seats in the April congressional elections, followed by the left-leaning Broad Front with 20, Kuczynski’s Peruvians for Change party with 18, and three smaller parties with the remainder. President Kuczynski assumed office in July.
International election observers expressed concerns about insufficient controls on campaign finances, including a lack of limits on spending by political parties. While the National Board of Elections (JNE) was applauded for its efforts to improve transparency, inadequate enforcement mechanisms led to the perception that abuse of campaign finance laws was widespread. Observers criticized the enactment of a 2015 reform to the Political Parties Law after elections had already been called, which caused confusion about which laws were in effect. However, the reform proved to be a useful tool for protecting electoral integrity, as the JNE effectively applied it in disqualifying two candidates, one of them for vote buying.
The conviction of journalists on charges of defamation reinforced concerns about outdated legal restrictions on freedom of expression in Peru. Among other cases during the year, Fernando Valenica was charged with libeling the former president, Alan García, and Rafael León was charged with defamation for publishing a piece in 2014 that was critical of a fellow journalist. They received fines and suspended jail sentences in April and May, respectively, though both sentences were later overturned on appeal. Separately, newspaper editor Ronald Daniel Ormeño was temporarily jailed in September for failing to pay damages in a libel case dating to 2013. Physical attacks and threats against journalists remained common; at least one journalist, radio host Hernán Choquepata Ordoñez, was murdered during the year, though the motive for the November killing was unclear.
Local disputes and protests—often related to extractive industries, land rights, and resource allocation among marginalized populations—regularly result in deaths and injuries. In September 2016, more than 50 indigenous residents of the Amazon province of Bagua were finally acquitted of murder and other charges stemming from deadly clashes between police and land-rights protesters in 2009. No state officials were prosecuted for their role in the incident.
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The president and the 130-member unicameral Congress are elected for five-year terms. Congressional balloting employs an open-list, region-based system of proportional representation, with a 5-percent vote hurdle for a party to enter the legislature.
The 2016 general elections were closely contested, with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski ultimately winning by a historically small margin. After a competitive first round with 10 candidates, in which Keiko Fujimori won 39.9% of the vote, well ahead of any other candidate, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Fujimori entered a runoff in June, which Kuczynski won, 50.1% to 49.9%. In the concurrent legislative elections, Fujimori’s Popular Force party captured 73 of the 130 seats, followed by Kuczynski’s Peruvians for Change with 18 seats and Broad Front with 20 seats.1
While international observers deemed the elections and fair, they raised concerns regarding campaign financing. Though there are limits on individual donations, there are no constraints on spending by political parties. Political parties are required to disclose funding sources in regular reporting, but due to the lack of enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance, observers believe the reports provided were incomplete.2 The enactment of a 2015 reform to the Political Party Law was largely viewed as complicating an already-opaque process. However, the electoral authority (JNE) effectively applied the reform to disqualify candidates Cesar Acuña for vote-buying and Julio Guzman for failing to complete required paperwork.3 Campaign ethics were a serious issue, as the Secretary General of the Popular Force party, Joaquin Ramirez, resigned under allegations of corruption and possible money laundering.4 Key advisors to the Kuczynski campaign resigned after incriminating audiotapes surfaced in October.5
Local and regional elections in October 2014 followed the pattern of previous cycles, with most elected officials representing regional movements rather than fragmented national parties. In Lima, the election returned former mayor Luis Castañeda to office despite past controversies. Accusations of collusion between local candidates and criminals are common; in the aftermath of the elections, 227 contributors to political parties were linked by the electoral authorities to various illicit activities.
Peruvian parties, while competitive, are both highly fragmented and extremely personalized. In the December 2015 National Corruption Survey, 64% of Peruvians described the performance of political parties as bad or very bad. Moves toward decentralization over the last decade have strengthened the role and influence of regional presidents, though they have often been accused of corruption.
The concerns of ethnic and cultural minorities, especially in remote mountain or Amazonian areas, remain inadequately addressed among parties with national scope, which contributes to regular episodes of acute social conflict in the provinces. The 2011 Law of Prior Consultation has fostered increased recognition and encouragement of indigenous participation and consultation rights, but analysts agree that there is still ample room to improve the Peruvian state’s integration of indigenous political agendas into mainstream national debate.
Corruption remains a critical problem in Peru. According to the 2015 National Corruption Survey, nearly 80% of Peruvians think corruption increased under the Humala government, and 85% view the central government as “little” or “not at all” effective in fighting corruption. Checks on political parties’ campaign financing are weak, especially at the subnational level, where drug trafficking activity flourishes. Peru was ranked 88 out of 168 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Corruption scandals persisted in 2016. In March, Brazilian officials announced they were investigating now-former President Ollanta Humala for allegedly accepting bribes of up to $3 million from a Brazilian engineering firm.1 After corruption had featured prominently in the presidential campaign, three advisors to President Kuczynski—Carlos Moreno, José Labán and Jorge Villacorta—stepped down in October amid allegations that they had engaged in corruption during the campaign.2 In response to the allegations, Kuczynski announced a series of measures to combat corruption, including a law that would ban those who have been charged with corruption from returning to public office.3
Some government agencies have made progress on transparency, but much information related to defense and security policies remains classified under a 2012 law.
Civil Liberties: 41 / 60
Peru’s dynamic press is mostly privately owned. The 2013 purchase of the EPENSA newspaper group by the El Comercio conglomerate—which now controls nearly 80% of the market—ignited an intense debate over the concentration of media ownership. The Constitutional Tribunal (TC) still has yet to rule on an injunction filed in 2013 claiming that the merger infringed on a constitutional article barring the “cornering” of the media market.1
Attacks against journalists in response to negative media coverage are common, especially at the subnational level. Reporters often receive threats when reporting on corruption, while many physical attacks occur in the context of protests over resource extraction issues. Low pay leaves reporters susceptible to bribery, and media outlets remain dependent on advertising by large retailers and the state. Defamation is criminalized, and journalists are regularly convicted under such charges, though their sentences are usually suspended. In 2016, Fernando Valenica was charged with libeling former president Alan Garcia, 2 and Rafael Leon was charged with defamation for publishing a critical piece in 2014 of then-mayor of Lima, Susana Villaran.3 Valencia was sentenced to over a year in prison, though the sentence was suspended, and both were forced to pay fines.
The Peruvian constitution guarantees freedom of religion and belief, rights that are generally respected. The Roman Catholic Church nevertheless receives preferential treatment from the state, and an influential bloc of Catholic congressional representatives helps limit potential changes on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion.
The government restricts neither academic freedom nor access to the internet, which had a penetration rate of 58% in 2016.4
The authorities generally recognize and respect the constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful assembly. However, the government has also frequently resorted to declarations of states of emergency and done little to prevent excessive use of force by security personnel confronting protests. At least 51 Peruvians were killed in protests between the start of Humala’s term and October 2015. Very few members of the police or military have faced charges for protest-related incidents in recent years. Several decrees and laws since 2010 have limited police and military responsibility in the event of injury or death during demonstrations. In 2015, the TC ruled unconstitutional a provision broadening military jurisdiction in cases when the security forces are involved in civilian deaths, but upheld the executive’s capacity to deploy the armed forces in a variety of social conflict situations.
Despite substantial efforts by the state ombudsman and the recently created National Office of Dialogue, the governmental approach to local grievances typically eschews mediation and early intervention in favor of reactive repression. On September 22, 12 Amazon indigenous leaders were finally acquitted of chargers of murder, inciting rebellion, and causing serious injury, in the wake of the Bagua protests and subsequent police massacre in June 2009.1
Freedom of association is generally respected. In recent years, however, anti-mining activists have been subject to arbitrary arrest or questionable legal charges, while several nongovernmental organizations have experienced various forms of intimidation.
Peruvian law recognizes the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. Strikes are legal with advance notification to the Ministry of Labor, but few strikers abide by this regulation. Less than 10% of the formal-sector workforce is unionized.
The judiciary is perceived as the most corrupt institution in the country. A controversial set of appointments in 2013—later rescinded in the wake of public protests—greatly undermined the credibility of the relatively independent TC. Attention by civil society organizations has increasingly focused on the National Judiciary Council, which appoints judges and prosecutors and monitors alleged cases of judicial corruption.
The situation in Peruvian jails is extremely poor. The average population is 75,000 inmates—230% of capacity—more than half of whom are in pretrial detention. Since 2006, an adversarial justice system designed to improve the speed and fairness of judicial proceedings has slowly been implemented. Many indigenous Peruvians pass through the justice system without sufficient Spanish to adequately understand their cases or fully exercise their rights, and the state fails to provide sufficient translation services.
According to the 2014 Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) survey, Peru had the highest crime victimization rate of 28 countries in the Americas, and local polls often confirm crime as Peruvians’ principal concern.
Since the 2003 publication of Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report on the internal conflict against Shining Path guerrillas—which took 69,000 lives in the 1980s and 1990s—justice has been served in some significant cases. Most notable is the conviction of former president Alberto Fujimori for overseeing death-squad killings and two kidnappings. The García government made almost no efforts to prioritize justice for cases of human rights abuse by state actors during the 1980s and 1990s, and the Humala administration was similarly passive. The military continues to obstruct those investigating past violations. However, in November 2015 the government declared the reparation of victims of forced sterilizations during Fujimori’s government a matter of “national interest” and created a victims’ registry to better target their legal assistance and health and psychological needs.
Remnants of the Shining Path involved in the drug trade continue to clash with security forces in the Apurimac-Ene River Valley (VRAE) and Upper Huallaga zones. Coca eradication efforts and economic development programs in other regions have failed to reverse a trend toward increased coca production.
Native Quechua speakers and Afro-Peruvians are subject to discrimination. Peru is a particularly hostile country toward the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) population. Many cases of discrimination and violence are reported each year; in a survey conducted in 2014, nearly 90% of Lima’s LGBT residents reported being the victim of physical violence due to their sexual preference. The Humala administration removed any mention of targeted LGBT policies from the National Plan of Human Rights (2014–16).
Peru does not place formal restrictions on movement, but the frequency of protests can disrupt travel in certain areas, occasionally for prolonged periods. Discrimination against indigenous populations remains pervasive with regard to land use and property rights. Afro-Peruvians remain especially vulnerable and invisible to public policy. Humala’s government nonetheless instituted some programs and initiatives to better ensure the exercise of indigenous rights. The Prior Consultation Law is a notable example: despite some criticism by activists, the law is widely accepted, even by the extractive sector, and has resulted in positive outcomes for communities that have taken part in consultation processes.
Domestic violence is widespread in Peru, with more than half of Peruvian women reporting instances of physical or emotional abuse. In recent years, women have advanced into leadership roles in various companies and government agencies, but there are still no specific gender policies to ensure equal rights between men and women. A proposal to recognize civil unions for same-sex partners, rejected by Congress in 2015, was reintroduced in 2016.
Peruvian women and girls—especially from the indigenous community—fall victim to sex trafficking within the country, including near mining facilities. Men, women, and children are subject to forced labor in the mines, in related industries, and in the informal economy. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, government enforcement of an anti-trafficking law has been “uneven.”
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Global Freedom Score70 100 partly free