Recent elections in Peru saw the right-wing eocnomist Padro Pablo Kuczynski narrowly defeat Keiko Fujimori in the presidential contest. In this article, Susana Villaran, the former mayor of Lima and someone who was in the forefront of the fight to return Peru to democracy when Keiko’s father Alberto Fujimori was in power in the late 1990s, argues that the new government must continue the task of creating real democracy in this Andean nation:.
So democracy has won by a hair’s breadth, but Peru is split in two. Some people will see this as an opportunity to exploit the contradictions in a polarized fashion that can bring short-term political gain. But that can only lead us to the precipice.
If the political and social reality of our beloved Peru has shown anything in these 16 continuous years of democratic rule, it is how weak that democracy is. We have betrayed the principles of the transition to democracy that began with such high hopes. All of us are responsible, to varying degrees, for not having deepened and radicalized reforms, for not having promoted with enough boldness, determination, and democratic conviction, public policies that could strengthen the reform of our education system, the growth of work with dignity, alongside the diversification of production and decentralization, prompt access to impartial justice, and the prevention, eradication and sanction of unstoppable violence in all its forms.
It is in this weak democracy that informality is able to prosper, that fear appeals to our basic instincts and the importance of our freedoms and human rights is devalued and replaced by a culture of the devious and whoever has the most. Clientelism, privileges, impunity and corruption have gained a lot of ground, defeating the rule of law, devaluing undermining the value of politics and neglecting the promotion of active citizenship.
The first step we need to take now must be to go back to what we have constructed and use it as a support on which to carry on building, but at a different rhythm, with proper leadership, for real. No, we have not been wasting our time over the past sixteen years, and yet the leaders of our country’s democratic parties do not even recognize what their own followers and officials, the institutions and organizations of civil society have achieved in that time.
The political lack of seriousness has turned such an invaluable tool as the National Agreement and its proposals into an irrelevant ritual. The same has happened to the CEPLAN, the Negotiating Table for the Fight Against Poverty, the Truth Commission, the Special Commission for the Integral Reform of Justice, the National Anti-Corruption Initiative, the reforms to the 1993 Constitution, the great efforts led by Henry Pease in Congress, the policies of the State Criminal Policy Council, the Paris Climate Change accords, amongst others.
We know perfectly well what fundamental reforms our political and electoral system requires, as well as citizen security, the fight against corruption, regional development, the protection of childhood and children’s rights, as well as a determined effort to end the discrimination that leads to violence in all its forms, as well as sustainable, decentralised development.
The newly elected president Pedro Pablo Kuscinsky has a crucial responsibility for breathing fresh life into what has been neglected in recent years and in playing a leading role in achieving these fundamental reforms. But it is not just his responsibility. Yes, we have seen his weakness in only winning just over half of the votes, but thousands and thousands of us have supported him in order to shut out a government that was on the verge of giving the coup de grace to this democratic cycle. But we need to be honest with ourselves: yet again we have also had to face our own weakness. We will not get another opportunity.
Today’s tasks began not only sixteen years ago but long before that, in the as yet incomplete construction of the Republic.