Of Peru’s various presidents during the last 30 years, one is currently serving a prison sentence for corruption and two more are under investigation accused of the same. Only two former leaders, now deceased, are regarded as true examples of honesty.
Only the former leaders, Fernando Belaúnde (1963-1968 and 1980-1985) and Valentín Paniagua (interim president 2000-2001) maintain untarnished reputations, whereas Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) is currently serving a 25 year sentence for crimes against humanity and corruption, having pleaded guilty to the latter.
Social democrat, Alan García (1985-1990 and 2006-2011) and centrist Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) are currently accused of corruption and are both subject to an inquiry by the Public Ministry with the former also being investigated by Parliament.
García is under investigation for alleged illicit enrichment after having bought a property for $830,000, an amount which is clearly beyond the means of someone who has only ever worked in politics.
This veteran and skilful politician claims that his international lectures, an ex-presidents pension and income from three published books, has earned him over $1.3 million since he left office in July 2011.
Toledo’s investigation arose following a purchase made by his Belgian mother-in-law of a luxury property in Lima for $3.75 million. Those who point the finger suggest that the transaction was used to launder the illegal income of the former president.
Toledo maintains that his mother-in-law received large inheritances after being widowed twice and as a holocaust victim, had also previously received a compensation payout and a lifelong pension from the German government.
The former president claims that the accusation is politically motivated, an allegation also shared by García whose explanations lack any kind of credibility as, according to Raúl Wiener, he has still not provided any justification as to how an ex-president of lowly origins and who has only ever worked as a politician could be in possession of such wealth.
A congressional commission is also conducting an inquiry into several corruption cases registered during García’s last office which have so far gone unpunished.
Following his first term of office, the former social democrat leader was sent to trial for illicit enrichment but was not convicted due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Veteran journalists and analysts are sceptical of the fiscal investigation after similar experiences with large scale, important cases which have gone unpunished or which have resulted in only secondary offenders being convicted.
García’s investigation is even a cause for concern for Sergio Tejada, the president of the congressional commission carrying out his investigation, who fears that the inquiry will complicate the legislative body’s plans.
Tejada warns that Congress will not be able to intervene if the Public Ministry files the case, a situation which has occurred with all of García’s former government officials whose cases were dealt with by this body.
García’s and Toledo’s cases coincide with the announcement of a new government anti-corruption strategy involving the implementation of preventative measures and legal adjustments in order to fight against what most Peruvians, according to an official report carried out in 2010, identify as the State’s main downfall.
The strategy was preceded by the creation of the National Anti-corruption Commission last January, which intends to increase control over internal matters and purchasing procedures within the state system and create an early warning system, stated Prime Minister, Juan Jiménez.
Greater protection for accusers and witnesses, the unification of anti-corruption legislation and the standardisation and improvement of the systems used to receive reports of corruption incidents, are all also included in the new strategy.
The seriousness of this problem was brought to light in a study published in 2012 by investigator, Alfonso Quiroz, who claims that corruption is financially damaging to the State, causing a loss of between 30 to 40 percent of public budget and 3 to 4 percent of gross national income.
In November 2010, Fuad Khoury, comptroller general for the Republic, informed that over the last 18 months – the majority of which were during García’s office– public budget suffered a loss of 10 to 15 percent which could amount to 9 billion Nuevo Sols ($3.53 billion).
Another difficulty facing Peru is society’s general tolerance of corruption, to the point where it is seen as normal and even excused by the population, who often claim that an accused politician “steals, but is helping the community”.
(Translated by Rebecca Hayhurst)