Peru’s Multidimensional Challenge Review

By Evan Ellis / November 8, 2020

International Affairs Academy

Document of the Day

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In an effort to explore new priorities, lets move our attention to South America, specifically Peru. Evan Ellis wrote the following yesterday.


With the beginning of November 2020, Peru’s Congress

returned from a week of recess and member consultation

with constituencies and voted to deliberate on removing

President Martin Vizcarra over corruption charges, to the full body.In the

coming weeks, in a process not unlike impeachment in the United States,

Peru’s Congress will summon the president to respond to corruption

charges, and in the unlikely case that it achieves the required 2/3 majority

(87 votes), could remove him from office. The process will be the second

time in little more than two months that Congress has attempted to

remove Vizcarra—albeit on two completely separate charges—and the

culmination of a very bad year for the president and the nation.

If President Vizcarra, after leaving office, is formally charged for one or

more of the serious crimes for which he is currently being investigated, he

would be the sixth Peruvian president since 2000 to suffer that fate. Even

as Peru’s political crisis plays out, the country, which is strategically

important for its political and economic weight, geographic position as a

gateway to Asia, and as a source of both narcotics and illegal mining

products, is also suffering unprecedented health and socioeconomic stress

from the COVID-19 pandemic.It is also undergoing important

transformations in its criminal economy, and facing a potentially

significant expansion of the economic footprint and associated influence

of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

This article is the first in a three-part series examining the

multidimensional and mutually reinforcing challenges facing Peru. The

present article examines the political crisis and prospects for the 2021

elections. The second will examine Peru’s security challenges and the

response of its government. The third will examine the advance of the PRC

and its implications for the country and the region.


President Vizcarra’s current

predicament is ironic given his path

to office and his high popularity just a

year ago. He was widely perceived as

an honest leader, valiantly and

stubbornly struggling against vested

interests in Peruvian politics.

Vizcarra became president in March

2018 when his predecessor, Pedro

Pablo Kuczynski, resigned over

corruption allegations. When the

politically fractured Peruvian

Congress—seen as beholden to special interests—tried to block

consideration of reforms he was proposing, Vizcarra exercised his (then

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uncertain) constitutional right to dissolve Congress and call for new

elections. President Vizcarra’s frontal challenge to a congress seen as

representing the worst of corruption and special interests in Peruvian

politics, made him one of the most positively viewed presidents in the

region, reaching an unprecedented 82 percent popular approval in October


With a favorable ruling by Peru’s constitutional court and the tacit backing

of the military Vizcarra prevailed.In January 2020, Peru elected a new

(even more fragmented) congress, none of whose members had

participated in the prior, and in which the previously most powerful block,

Fuerza Popular, tied to exiled Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and his

presidential candidate daughter Keiko, were greatly reduced.

Then COVID-19 hit.

Vizcarra’s response to the pandemic through an early, stringent lockdown

of the country, coupled with a significant assistance package to help the

most vulnerable, was heralded as good leadership at the time, yet didn’t

work. Peru’s economic and social structure, with public markets and a

large informal sector centered on close human interaction, undercut

government efforts to limit the spread of the virus. The contagion was

compounded by the government’s costly commitment to purchase USD

$267 million in “quick tests”from Orient Gene Biotech and other Chinese

companies. The high rate of false negative results of the tests, many of

which were not even certified by the Chinese government, led many who

had contracted the virus to believe otherwise, allowing them to

unknowingly contaminate others.

Weaknesses in Peru’s healthcare system, compounded by delays in

acquiring needed medical equipment, such as ventilators from China,

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contributed to the nation having the world’s highest per capita COVID-19

fatality rate, 105.35 deaths/100,000 people.