Opinion

Peru deserves a fresh political start

If your country had suffered the world’s deadliest coronavirus epidemic, you might expect particular care over the choice of health minister.

Not so in Peru. Within two days of Hernán Condori’s appointment last week, the country’s medical association demanded his resignation, saying the new minister had offered unauthorised gynaecological services, promoted quack remedies and was not even minimally qualified.

Many Peruvians are now saying the same of the man who appointed him, President Pedro Castillo. When the rural primary school teacher narrowly won election last year, optimists hoped he might construct a coalition extending well beyond his Marxist-Leninist party Peru Libre and govern pragmatically. Pessimists pointed to his complete lack of experience and to the influence of Vladimir Cerrón, the shadowy Cuban-trained party boss, and predicted disaster.

Seven months after Castillo took office, the pessimists have prevailed. The president is on his fourth prime minister, his third foreign minister and his second finance minister. His government is lurching from crisis to crisis. The third premier was appointed at the start of this month but lasted just four days after allegations surfaced that he had assaulted his wife and daughter. His replacement is a confrontational figure unlikely to survive long.

Fresh scandals break almost daily, mostly allegations of incompetence or petty corruption. The government is paralysed — ironically a development which has calmed investors who feared radical measures.

Peru’s political problems did not begin with Castillo; the president is a symbol of broader institutional disarray. The disintegration of traditional parties, the discrediting of the political class amid recurring corruption scandals and the constant tussling of presidents with hostile legislators have created a crisis of governability which threatens Peruvian democracy.

Part of the problem is the 1993 constitution. A product of the authoritarian presidency of Alberto Fujimori, it grants the president sweeping powers to veto laws and even dissolve the unicameral congress but also allows legislators to remove the head of state on the grounds of “moral incapacity”.

The term has never been clearly defined but many Peruvians believe their president meets the criteria. Although Castillo’s radical politics have polarised the country, the issue is not primarily ideological but competence.

Peru matters; the economy is larger than that of Greece or Ukraine. Despite generally sound macroeconomic policies over the past two decades and decent growth, too many citizens have been left behind — one of the reasons behind Castillo’s victory. As elsewhere in Latin America, there is an urgent need to improve education, health and infrastructure, preserve fragile ecosystems and move towards greener energy. A narrow elite needs to share political and economic power more widely.

Congress has so far held back from removing Castillo. An attempt to do so last December fell well short of the required two-thirds majority. Self-interest is at work; legislators fear that if they remove the president and his vice-president (a close ally who is herself under investigation), they will be forced to call fresh general elections and thus lose their jobs.

Peru can ill-afford four and a half more years of government chaos. The time has come for legislators to put the national interest first and give voters a fresh opportunity to choose a leader capable of tackling their country’s pressing problems.

 

hello, I am Flora Khan and i work journalist in allnewshouse website i work in other sites like forbes and washington post with 5 years in experience.

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