Washington, D.C.— On Sunday, June 6, Peruvians will cast their ballots for president in a close race between Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori.
No matter the outcome, the country’s democracy faces serious challenges.
Pedro Castillo, a schoolteacher from the leftist Peru Libre party, took the lead in the first round due to his promise to change the prevailing neoliberal model. He held a comfortable lead over his rival and third-time presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori of the hard-right Fuerza Popular. Her law-and-order candidacy evokes the authoritarian rule of her father, Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), who was convicted in 2009 for grave violations of human rights, corruption and abuse of authority.
Both candidates have sparked concern regarding their commitment to keeping Peru on course in its battle against corruption and impunity. In the case of Castillo, the head of Peru Libre, Vladimir Cerrón, was convicted on corruption charges and faces numerous other charges; Castillo has tried to distance himself from Cerrón, but he needs the support of Peru Libre congress leaders who are loyal to Cerrón. In the case of Fujimori, prosecutors have formally charged her of money laundering and as the head of a criminal organization and are seeking a 30-year prison term. Dozens of her close advisors as well as her husband also face corruption charges.
Keiko Fujimori has a very personal reason for wanting to win the presidency: winning the presidency grants her immunity. She has said she’d submit to any investigation after her term is over. Her critics recall the lengths her father (who she has promised to pardon if she becomes president) went to eviscerate democratic checks and balances, including shutting down Congress, suspending the Constitution, and firing judges at will to secure his total control over the judiciary. Her own party’s efforts over the past five years, through their supermajority in Congress, to reshape the Constitutional Tribunal, get anti-corruption prosecutors fired, and influence judicial decisions, leads to serious doubt about her sincerity.
In a June 3 discussion hosted by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Center for International Law and Justice (CEJIL) and the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), Dr. Jo-Marie Burt, an expert on transitional justice, state violence and human rights on Peru and senior fellow at WOLA noted: “We know that whatever the outcome, there are great risks for Peru’s fight against corruption and impunity, the rights of the victims of grave human rights violations, and how to preserve the progress of these efforts.”
“[Keiko Fujimori] vindicates her father’s regime, which was a dictatorship that used the military to shut down the constitution, shut down the congress, overtake the judiciary and establish, essentially, total control,” comments Dr. Burt in the latest episode of Latin America Today.
Dr. Burt lived in Peru during the 1990s and wrote a definitive study of the Fujimori dictatorship. She was directly involved in the landmark trial and conviction of Alberto Fujimori in 2009. She published several reports directly from the courtroom, organized international observation missions to the trial, and advocated on behalf of the rights of victims’ access to justice during and after the proceedings.
Ahead of the second round of presidential elections this Sunday, Dr. Burt will be closely monitoring the situation and is available to provide comments and analysis on the implications this electoral cycle will have on the progress of the rights of victims, the fight against corruption and impunity in Peru.
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