Peru crystallizes the crisis of political systems in Latin America. The last five years have seen four presidents parade. Some, like Manuel Merino, lasted no more than four days. Others have a purely technocratic legitimacy, such as the current leader Francisco Sagati.
Meanwhile, party politics has emptied itself, and Congress has been invaded by all sorts of adventurers, charlatans and opportunists. The scorched earth in which politics unfolds has made the emergence of candidates with the profile of Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Castillo virtually inevitable.
The factors at the origin of the Peruvian crisis are present at different levels in the rest of Latin America. The country never broke with the authoritarian style of Fujimorism, marked by police violence, the capture of the state and the savage extraction of natural resources. The judicialization of politics destroyed the attempt to rebuild the political class and motivated the resurrection of the far right.
Finally, the pandemic plunged society into a permanent state of despair. Last week’s review of the death toll, which placed Peru at the top of the world’s mortality rankings, sums up the legacy of the past five years.
The context of disaggregation of regional institutions and of political transition in Latin America enhances domestic conflict. The OAS, under the management of farcist Luis Almagro, has the credibility of an Iraqi court under Saddam Hussein. Mercosur, vandalized by the Bolsonaro government, is nothing but a shadow of its past.
What was left of the United States’ moral authority, badly damaged in Peru after the recognition of Fujimori’s self-coup in 1992 by the Bush presidency, evaporated with the advance of China in 2010. Currently under construction, the port complex in Chancay, a hundred kilometers from Lima, will be China’s gateway to Latin America and will mark Peru’s entry into a new geopolitical era.
In the midst of so many changes, democratic stability has become a secondary issue. Therefore, despite the technical draw on Sunday night (6), it is already possible to distinguish some trends. A functioning government of Pedro Castillo, which lacks a sustainable party base and institutional experience, would be something close to a miracle. Keiko Fujimori’s vows to uphold the constitution in the final stretch of the election make those who know his movement smile. As the leader of the party that has held a majority in Congress in recent years, she has done everything to degrade the political situation. Its authoritative verve remains intact.
The scorched earth in Peru is a wake-up call for Latin America and Brazil in particular. The resilience of Fujimorism, which will continue to be the most organized political force in the country regardless of the outcome of the election, shows that the project for power of the far right in Latin America did not lose steam after Donald Trump’s defeat.
This finding also serves as a warning to those who hope to quickly turn the page from pocketbookism: the radicalization of the right is a long and potentially irreversible process.
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