Is this the end of Fujimorismo in Peru?

. Feb 13, 2020
The political dynasty that dominated Peru for decades now appears to be on its way out, with Alberto Fujimori in poor health and his heiress' party suffering huge losses Anti-Fujimori protests in Lima (July 20, 2019). Photo: SebastORG/Shutterstock

When Alberto Fujimori first stood as a presidential candidate in Peru in 1990, he was thought of as an outsider and received little attention at first. After all, the unknown dean of an agricultural university—who became notable for driving a tractor to campaign rallies—was squaring off against future Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa, who wanted to implement Thatcherite reforms in Peru. 

But it was his promise to crush the Maoist insurgency group Shining Path and his rhetoric against the rich, white elites in a mostly poor, multiracial country that struck a chord with the electorate. Mr. Fujimori went on to rule the country with an iron fist for ten years, resigning after mounting corruption accusations. 

Since his surprise win, “Fujimorismo” became the center of Peru’s political life—drawing as many supporters as detractors. Thirty years down the line, however, Fujimorismo is fading away.

</p> <p>At 81 years old, Mr. Fujimori&#8217;s health is rapidly deteriorating. Just last week, he was rushed to the hospital to treat respiratory problems, partial facial paralysis, and hypertension. He is also serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights abuses, the latter related to his involvement in the killings and kidnappings carried out by anti-communist death squad Grupo Colina.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the former leader&#8217;s political heiress, Keiko Fujimori, is also doing time—she will serve a 15-month sentence while authorities investigate her alleged receipt of USD 1.2 million in bribes from <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2018/04/13/operation-car-wash-latin-america/">Brazilian construction company Odebrecht</a>. A two-time presidential candidate—who came less than 1 percent from winning the race in 2016—Ms. Fujimori presided over one of the greatest political downfalls in Peruvian history.</p> <script src="https://www.buzzsprout.com/299876/1803928-80-odebrecht-s-peruvian-wrecking-ball.js?player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p>Her Popular Force party lost 58 seats in the last congressional elections, snatching only 15 of the total of 130 up for grabs and losing its position as Peru&#8217;s biggest legislative bench. This was uncharted waters for a dynasty that shaped the country&#8217;s political life for the past three decades. Still, analysts refrain from calling this the end of Fujimorismo.</p> <p>“I would not dare to say that, especially since it is a populist movement with approval rates of at least 30 percent,” says Peruvian expert and law professor Alonso Gurmendi. “This could be, however, the end of Fujimorismo&#8217;s dominance in Congress.”</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1394330"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Who takes over for Fujimorismo?</h2> <p>Peruvians went to the polls late in January after President Martín Vizcarra dissolved Congress when lawmakers blocked his anti-corruption agenda. Led by Keiko Fujimori, the opposition tried to obstruct Mr. Vizcarra&#8217;s maneuver—even swearing-in Deputy Vice President Mercedes Araoz as head of state.</p> <p>For a moment, Peru had <a href="https://brazilian.report/latin-america/2019/10/01/peru-odebrecht-scandal-car-wash-vizcarra/">two presidents and no Congress</a>. But thousands of citizens sided with Mr. Vizcarra and high courts upheld his dissolution of parliament.</p> <p>January&#8217;s election saw the rise of multiple parties in Peru with no clear winner, but one clear loser. Ms. Fujimori&#8217;s Popular Force went from having over half of seats to only 10 percent of them. &#8220;The Fujimori political platform was built around pro-family values and a &#8216;no-nonsense&#8217; approach against crime,&#8221; says Mr. Gurmendi. &#8220;Now, it has become a synonym for corruption, and voters have migrated towards less traditional parties.&#8221;</p> <p>Which political force takes over from Fujimorismo is anyone&#8217;s guess. The rise of centrist parties could be positive for President Vizcarra, if he is skilled enough to build a coalition. However, a fragmented legislature will unlikely be open to the reforms he envisions.</p> <h2>Which legacy will the Fujimori family leave in Peru?</h2> <p>Few figures are as divisive in Peru as the Fujimoris.</p> <p>Many see Fujimori senior as a brutal man, who allowed the operation of death squads under his administration, and whose political hunger led to the shutdown of Congress and the suspension of the Constitution in the name of <a href="https://brazilian.report/latin-america/2020/01/13/pension-systems-latin-america-ticking-time-bomb/">free-market</a> and anti-terror reforms. More than once, Mr. Fujimori skewed the rules to allow himself to have more terms in office.</p> <p>Still, millions continue to praise him. For them, the image of the elder Fujimori is that of a man who crushed the terrorist Shining Path guerillas and tamed a brutal economic crisis.</p> <p>“There is no consensus on how to remember Mr. Fujimori’s era. He is at the same time regarded as someone who <a href="https://brazilian.report/latin-america/2020/01/23/democracy-weakening-latin-america-economist-index/">shattered democracy</a> and ordered countless extra-judicial killings—but also a leader who &#8216;did what needed to be done&#8217; when it comes to the economy and public safety,” added Mr. Gurmendi.

 
Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs—specializing Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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