Referendum in Peru Aims to End Corruption
Peruvians voted in a referendum on Sunday, December 9, regarding judicial and legislative reforms aimed at curbing corruption. The current president, Martín Vizcarra, proposed the referendum in July in response to rampant and excessive levels of corruption in Peru.
The Brazilian construction company Odebrecht has implicated various countries in corruption scandals as they admitted to paying upwards of $800 million in bribes to secure contracts of construction of infrastructure throughout the region. Peru is certainly no exception having received $30 million USD of bribes from Odebrecht.
Four former Presidents of Peru are currently under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office in Offenses of Money Laundering (Fiscalía de Lavado de Activos) for their connections to Odebrecht: former presidents Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), Alan García (1985-1990, 2006-2011), Ollanta Humala (2011-2016), and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-2018).
Additionally, Keiko Fujimori, an opposition leader, presidential candidate, and former first daughter, is detained for corruption charges as she is investigated for laundering money provided by Odebrecht bribes in 2011.
According to Latinobarómetro, a polling firm, only eight percent of Peruvians said they trust the legislature, which is the lowest level in all of Latin America.
The referendum included four points that were voted on. The first point would allow the people to select members of the judiciary, and was approved with 87.1% of the vote in favor.
The second point would prohibit political parties from receiving money from unknown donors and put certain regulations on the financing of political parties, which was approved with 85 percent of the votes.
The third point would prohibit immediate re-election of any Congress official, and was approved with 85.2 percent of the votes.
The fourth and last point would enable the creation of a Congress with two chambers instead of a one-body legislature. This is the only point that was not approved, with only 14.9 percent of the votes in favor.
This is seen as a victory for President Vizcarra as he himself was in favor of the three winning points of referendum and against the fourth point of referendum which was not approved by popular demand. President Vizcarra stated, “The referendum does not change everything. But it is the beginning of the change that we are looking for in Peru.”
Twenty-four million citizens voted in this referendum. Peruvian citizens also voted in elections for governor in 15 regions throughout Peru.
Steve Levitsky, a political scientist at Harvard University, commented, “What this referendum is potentially giving the government and maybe even the political system is a little breathing room. A little burst of confidence and public trust that it can potentially use to get up and running.”
Former President Ollanta Humala also commented on the referendum, “These results, amongst other things, sends a clear message to the current Congress. Now we must ensure that the Legislature respects the will of the people. Additionally, it is a confirmation that a unified Peru can do anything.” As mentioned above, Former President Humala has been detained and is currently under investigation for corruption charges.
Hopefully, this referendum will not only aid in eliminating corruption in Peru, but in all of Latin America, a region plagued with corruption.