Peru has established democratic political institutions and undergone multiple peaceful transfers of power, though recent, high-profile corruption scandals have eroded public trust in government and hampered its normal operations. Indigenous groups suffer from discrimination and inadequate political representation.
- In September, President Martín Vizcarra dissolved the opposition-controlled Congress. In response, Congress attempted to suspend Vizcarra, and named Vice President Mercedez Araoz as interim president, but she resigned a day later. Vizcarra remained in power and called for new legislative elections in January 2020.
- In July and August, President Vizcarra responded to protests in Islay against a controversial mining project by authorizing military forces to maintain order in the area. Local social organizations that oppose the Tia Maria mine note the risk that it would pollute local farmland and water supplies.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The president is chief of state and head of government. Presidents are directly elected to a five-year term and may serve nonconsecutive terms. The 2016 election was closely contested, with Pedro Kuczynski winning by a historically small margin of 0.2 percent over Keiko Fujimori. The elections took place peacefully, and stakeholders accepted the close result.
Kuczynski resigned in March 2018, as lawmakers prepared to hold an impeachment vote against him over corruption allegations. Vice President Martín Vizcarra was quickly sworn in to replace him, in accordance with legal procedures.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
Members of 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.
In September 2019, President Vizcarra dissolved Congress. Vizcarra had the constitutional authority to move forward with the dissolution, especially as there had been two votes of no confidence since the most recent congressional elections. In response, Congress attempted to dismiss the president’s actions, suspend him from the presidency, and appoint Vice President Mercedez Araoz as interim president. The next day, however, Araoz resigned and soon after President Vizcarra issued a decree calling for congressional elections in January, which has been accepted by the opposition party.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||3.003 4.004|
The National Board of Elections (JNE) has taken steps to improve transparency surrounding the electoral process, but insufficiently regulated campaign financing remains a serious issue. Soon after President Vizcarra dissolved Congress, JNE officially started the process for the 2020 congressional elections. Political parties and other political alliances had until the end of October 2019 to officially register their candidates to participate in the January 2020 election.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||4.004 4.004|
Peruvian parties, while competitive, are both highly fragmented and extremely personalized. Though there are limits on individual donations, there are no constraints on spending by political parties, offering an outsized advantage to parties able to secure abundant funds.
The political system in Peru has been described by the country’s political science community as a “democracy without parties.” The prevailing opinion is that the party system collapsed during Alberto Fujimori’s authoritarian regime in the 1990s. Traditional political parties have been replaced by fragile and opportunistic political organizations that have a very short life and little preference for democratic practices.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
Opposition political parties have a realistic chance of winning power through elections. The Popular Force party has used its legislative majority as a strong counterweight to the executive. There is currently no indication that the recent dissolution of Congress by President Vizcarra will create legal or de facto obstacles to the opposition, nor will he curtail its participation in the upcoming elections.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||3.003 4.004|
While voters and candidates are generally able to exercise their political choices without undue influence, businesses regularly seek to bribe or otherwise influence political candidates’ positions.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||2.002 4.004|
The concerns of ethnic and cultural minorities, especially in remote mountain and Amazonian areas, remain inadequately addressed in politics. The 2011 Law of Prior Consultation attempted to improve the participation of indigenous groups by guaranteeing consultation before mining and other development projects are undertaken. However, indigenous groups have criticized the law, as the process gives indigenous representatives no veto power, and there are ambiguities as to what qualifies a community as indigenous.
While the political participation of women has increased over recent years, women held just 28 percent of seats in Congress before its dissolution, and few leadership roles in local and regional governments.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||2.002 4.004|
Elected leaders and representatives are the key agents in creating and implementing policy. However, businesses and special interest groups influence officials through bribes and other illicit payments. The last four presidents and opposition leader Keiko Fujimori have all been accused of accepting illegal funds.
Partisan polarization has disrupted normal government functions in recent years. Throughout his time in office, President Vizcarra has constantly battled with Congress over his political and legislative agenda. In September 2018 he addressed the issue of no confidence in his government when he perceived that Congress was blocking his judicial and anticorruption reforms. Earlier this year, Vizcarra clashed again with Congress while trying to push his ambitious political reform. Finally, in September 2019, the battle over the rules of selection of new members of the Constitutional Court ended with Vizcarra dissolving Congress.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 due to a clash between the executive and legislative branches in which the president took the unusual step of dissolving Congress, and lawmakers subsequently attempted to suspend the president from office.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||2.002 4.004|
Government corruption remains a critical problem in Peru, though law enforcement authorities frequently investigate and prosecute corruption allegations. Recent years have seen scandals involving allegations of illicit deals between the Brazilian firm Odebrecht and a number of the country’s most senior political figures.
After assuming office, President Vizcarra proposed four anticorruption reforms, which were put to a referendum in December 2018. Three of the measures—including a ban on consecutive reelection for lawmakers, limits on campaign contributions, and an overhaul of the judicial appointment process—were approved by more than 85 percent of voters. The fourth measure, to reinstitute a 50-member Senate, was rejected by a little over 90 percent of voters. The result was a triumph for Vizcarra, who had campaigned heavily for the three successful reforms, but advocated against the fourth due to a modification made by the opposition-controlled Congress that would have curtailed executive power.
Vizcarra’s administration called 2019 “the year of the fight against corruption and impunity.” However, the perception of corruption of the political class is widespread, according to the latest survey by the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP). The latest regional report published in August by LAPOP shows that 52 percent of Peruvians would be willing to justify a military coup due to high corruption and crime in the government.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||2.002 4.004|
Some government agencies have made progress on transparency, but much information related to defense and security policies remains classified under a 2012 law. In 2019, the current administration has made a concerted effort to strengthen digital portals that contain public information in order to increase transparency and improve public services.
|Are there free and independent media?||3.003 4.004|
Peru’s dynamic press is mostly privately owned, and ownership is highly concentrated. Defamation is criminalized, and journalists are regularly convicted under such charges, though their sentences are usually suspended. Verbal attacks against and vilifications of journalists are reported each year. In April 2019, multiple government officials and representatives claimed that Gustavo Gorriti, director of the online news outlet IDL-Reporteros, should be considered responsible for the suicide of former president Alan Garciá. The outlet had investigated Garciá for evidence of corruption, which led to his shooting himself upon the police’s arrival at his home.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||4.004 4.004|
The Peruvian constitution guarantees freedom of religion and belief, and these rights are generally respected.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Academic freedom is unrestricted.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||4.004 4.004|
People are generally free to engage in private discussion without fear of retribution or surveillance.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||3.003 4.004|
The authorities generally recognize the constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful assembly. In the past, local disputes and protests—notably those related to extractive industries, land rights, and resource allocation among marginalized populations—have resulted in instances of excessive use of force by security personnel. However, substantial efforts by the state ombudsman and the National Office of Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS) have seemingly contributed to a reduction in protest-related violence.
Multiple protests related to environmental conservation occurred in 2019. In June, Peruvian activists rallied the international community to petition and protest the installment of a new airport near Machu Picchu, sought to increase access to the historical site. Conservationists internationally have expressed outrage over the danger the airport poses to important archaeological ruins and the surrounding environment.
In July and August, President Vizcarra responded to protests in Islay against a controversial mining project by authorizing military forces to maintain order in the area. Local social organizations that oppose the Tia Maria mine note the risks and fears that it would pollute local farmland and water supplies.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||3.003 4.004|
Freedom of association is generally respected. However, efforts by environmental activists to discourage land development have been met with intimidation.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||2.002 4.004|
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. Lengthy processes involved in registering a new union create a window in which labor leaders and activists can be easily dismissed from their jobs. Short-term contracts in many industries make unionization difficult. Less than 10 percent of the formal workforce is unionized.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||2.002 4.004|
The judiciary is perceived as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country. In July 2018, secretly recorded tapes revealed five judges trading reduced sentences or judicial appointments in exchange for bribes. All of the judges resigned or were suspended, and the revelations prompted a wave of citizen demonstrations. In December 2018, voters approved a reform that would replace the National Council of Judges, the body which selects and appoints judges, with a new National Board of Justice, whose members would be voted on by the public and restricted to one five-year term.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||2.002 4.004|
Constitutional guarantees of due process are unevenly upheld. Lawyers provided to indigent defendants are often poorly trained, and translation services are rarely provided for defendants who do not speak Spanish. Impunity for violence against environmental activists who challenge land development remains a problem.
In October 2018, Peru’s Supreme Court ordered former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori back to prison. In 2009, Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for human rights abuses committed while in office, but former president Kuczynski had issued a controversial medical pardon in 2017. Police officially returned him to prison in January 2019.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||2.002 4.004|
A recent report published in September 2019 by the National Statistics Institute (INEI) shows that between March and August 2019, 26 percent of Peruvians were victimized by crime and 85 percent believe they will be victims of a crime. About 10 percent of all reported crimes were committed with a firearm.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||2.002 4.004|
Discrimination against indigenous populations and Afro-Peruvians is pervasive. LGBT+ people face discrimination, hostility, and violence.
After Colombia, Peru is the country that has received the highest number of migrants from Venezuela. An October 2019 report by the Ministry of the Interior found that more than half of the Venezuelans residing in Peru have felt or experienced discrimination.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||4.004 4.004|
Peru does not place formal restrictions on movement, and movement around the country has become easier in recent years due to a decrease in protest actions that involve road blockages. People are able to freely change their place of employment or education.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||3.003 4.004|
The rights to own property and establish business are mostly respected, though tensions persist between extractive industries and indigenous communities who oppose land development. The Prior Consultation Law is designed in part to better protect indigenous rights to land. Its implementation has resulted in some positive outcomes for communities that have taken part in consultation processes—though prior consultation still does not always take place, nor are the requests of indigenous groups binding.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||2.002 4.004|
Gender-based violence is widespread in Peru, with more than half of Peruvian women reporting instances of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Proposals to recognize civil unions for same-sex partners have been repeatedly introduced and rejected in Congress. Abortion is permitted only in instances where a woman’s health is in danger.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||2.002 4.004|
Peruvian women and girls—especially from the indigenous community—fall victim to sex trafficking. Men, women, and children are subject to forced labor in mines and the informal economy. According to the US State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, the government of Peru does not meet the minimum standard for the elimination of trafficking, but has demonstrated significant efforts to ameliorate the problem, including convicting a higher number of people involved in human trafficking.
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Global Freedom Score70 100 partly free