The phenomenon of corruption has shown both continuity and variability since the appearance of the earliest states and civilizations. Corrupted manipulations of power and justice have, therefore, a very long history and presence in all cultures. In 1985 Peru, uncontrolled corruption had reached an alarming level under the shadow of an abusive presidential power and the extensive erosion of democratic institutions.1 This infamous government was led by Alan García Pérez, who was the first APRA (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana) politician to come to power in Peru, as well as the youngest president (at 36 years old) to be democratically elected throughout the history of his country, and at the time, the youngest around the world. Nonetheless, his government was characterized by ideological and moral distancing from the ideology of his party and, above all, by a unique public corruption crisis that would have a negative legacy in the following governments.
What is meant by corruption, in the context of Alan García Pérez and his government? According to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, corruption in organizations—especially in public organizations—is the practice consisting of the use of the functions and means of those functions for the benefit, economic or otherwise, of their managers. Another way to say this is to have a position of trust, public or private, and to use that position of trust to enrich oneself in ways that would be impossible except for having that position of trust. Although this definition accurately describes this illegal activity, this article proposes a new concept of corruption. Contemporary corruption more accurately describes the evolution of corruption in Peru from the government of Alan García onward, because corruption adopts much clearer trends of theft, nepotism, and collusion. Contemporary Corruption differs from normal corruption in Peru because since 1985 democracy in Peru stabilized more than ever, which compared to previous governments, mostly military or coup d’etats, had no inconvenience or recklessness for trials or investigations because they controlled the legal systems in their entirety.2
On August 16, 1990, under the government of Alberto Fujimori, a congressional commission led by Pedro Cateriano Bellido—a member of the political party Movimiento Libertad at that time—initiated an investigation against Alan García. This commission sought to analyze the financial operations carried out by García during his activities as a public official and president. The formation of this commission was a result of the insistence of Senator Fernando Olivera, who was a member of the political party Acción Popular and who, since 1987, had tried to initiate this investigative process of García. However, due to the Aprista majority in the congress at the time, Olivera was unable to pursue such an investigation, and was even censored for trying to demand the investigation. Cateriano and the rest of the commission believed that the Congress of the Republic, in previous governments, had used and abused its power to control the laws and trials. These beliefs created an atmosphere of distrust towards the work done in previous years by the congress in the area of fiscal investigation—an environment that this new commission hoped to soon reverse.3
Once the new government was inaugurated in 1990, Fujimori, of the Cambio 90 party, adopted power as a hope to get out of the economic and social crisis that García left due to his mismanagement of government and corruption. The commission finally began working to investigate the crimes of which García was accused by Fernando Olivera. Presidential corruption in Peru, as evidenced in Pedro Cateriano’s work, was never investigated by Peruvian institutional bodies until after Garcia’s government was out of power. He was accused by the commission of illicit self enrichment long before starting his presidential term. This meant that García lied when he made the declaration of possessions when he became president. This accusation was followed by others regarding his abuse of power, his manipulation of economic management to achieve political results, and his manipulating the purchase of Mirage planes from France, where he made a rare agreement with the government of France to reduce the number of aircraft agreed to by the previous government from 26 aircraft to 12. Due to this cut, billions of intis were lost when they were supposed to go to public investment.
In his History of Corruption in Peru, Alfonso Quiroz compares the crimes of García’s economic management manipulation with the corruption in the previous Peruvian governments of Bustamante (1945) and Velasco (1979), arguing that the control of prices, imports, and foreign currencies resembled the type of corruption of Garcia’s.4 However, what Garcia demonstrates was an innovation of corruption: García simply made up data to steal money; he transferred bank accounts to names of family or friends to cover up his robberies; and nobody noticed his theft thanks to an abusive discretionary power, including the favoritism he enjoyed at the time (that gave him the support of a large part of the population when he went out publicly to say that he had not stolen) and his traffic of influences, which allowed him to intimidate officials to continue stealing or acquiring illicit assets without creating suspicion. García’s unique kind of corruption deserves a new term, contemporary corruption, because these characteristics of his corruption are unique to his administration, and are not reflected in the governments of either Bustamante or Velasco. In addition, García was accused by the commission of tax fraud, illicit tax levy, and document falsification. Additional charges included the request and receipt of bribes from the Italian state agency that financed the construction of the Lima electric train system, once the Italian state agency offered him money, García, for his silence and more favors in financing, began to ask them for more money. One of the most scandalous cases was the illegal transfer of funds from the national treasuries to a bank in a tax haven, which was ordered by García to the Central Reserve Bank and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). The end result was the loss of billions of intis, the currency of Peru at the time.5
However, the investigation did not obtain all the desired results. While a good part of the case was dismissed by the Public Prosecutor, the National Prosecutor, Pedro Méndez Jurado, filed several of the cases and formalized a complaint to the Justice Department, specifically before the Second Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, admitting only to the crime of illicit enrichment, excluding the strongest charges related to the BCCI case and Mirage aircraft. The dismissal of the investigated case was mainly due to Apra having placed supporters of García at the judicial controls. One of the most anecdotal and controversial events of the process of the statement declaration occurred when García was asked for accountability. In court, García used a small blackboard and chalk to write all his estates, which was immediately confirmed by the Aprista judges without a thoughtful examination of the files they had on hand.6
In his research, Quiroz argues that García was fundamentally driven by immediate personal gain and the supreme desire to wield immense power—a characteristic that would be key during his investigation process. Due to his high ego, the corrupt politician would not let any accusation against him pass, which is why he kept lying to the judges and contacting his acquaintances. For example, one fact that came to light in 1991 was one that was publicly published in the Peruvian newspaper Expreso. It involved the statement of Manuel Estela, Chief of the National Superintendence of Tax Processes of Peru (SUNAT). In his confession, he stated that, by explicit orders of the Superintendent, investigations into García were denied. However, this would not be the worst thing that would happen to the investigation.7
On April 5, 1992, Alberto Fujimori carried out a coup d’etat and subsequently closed the congress, thereby expelling any investigative commission formed at that time. This action was due to Fujimori not having a congressional majority, as the parties that controlled the legislative institution were the Peruvian Aprista Party (Apra) and Frente Democrático (Fredemo). Governance, therefore, was obstructed by Apra protectionist decisions, especially those defending García. The coup also unleashed the persecution of certain politicians, including Alan García. The former president fled the country using a safe-conduct granted by the Colombian government, and later arrived in France.8
Such was the ending of one of the most chaotic and difficult episodes for the Peruvian population in the twentieth century. García proved to have innovated in the act of corruption through systematic lies within the investigative processes and through the sulfurous nepotism that his government had left. However, although Fujimori decided to close congress and leave the APRA majority out of the game, the country would not get rid of its corruption, and would fail to correct the dictatorial power under which it had suffered so much.
Alberto Fujimori ruled in Peru for almost ten years (1990-2000) due to unconstitutional modifications of the Political Constitution of Peru. Those modifications allowed him to be immediately re-elected and nominated for an additional period whenever his term was up. During this time, Fujimori developed a popular entertainment system through “Chicha” newspapers (misleading news that scandalized secondary situations to divert attention from serious situations) and television programs that, like Chicha newspapers, had a social placebo function. This system was developed to cover up corruption offenses similar to those of Alan García: usurpation of power, illegal telephone interception, undisclosed payment to congressmen, and purchase of the editorial line of media, just to name a few. In addition, Fujimori was later accused of paying an illegal Service Time Compensation (CTS) of $15 million to his former advisor Vladimiro Montesinos, with whom he had developed this corruption system. Fujimori and Montesinos also purged the military officers with Aprista inclinations, and did the same with the institutionalist career commanders and the various enemies of Montesinos, who could potentially oppose the new corruption strategies.9
On this last point, Quiroz, despite fundamentally describing a new corruption strategy, fails to create a new concept or a term to characterize this evolution in corruption. The implementation of new terminology is necessary to expressly refer to this period. However, the facet of corruption changed dramatically from what it was before García’s government, as the seed planted by García himself began to bear fruit under the new administration. Montesinos found the formula to reward and keep his accomplices faithful in hidden designs. The illicit diversion of official defense and intelligence funds, bribes, illegal commissions on the acquisition of military equipment, and the quotas imposed on drug trafficking activities in the jungle areas controlled by the military, were the main means of paying off the biased military command and Fujimori’s political entourage. Using those same sources of income, Montesinos reinforced covert and illegal operations led by the National Intelligence Service.10 Beginning in the late 1990s, the Fujimori government faced increasing unpopularity as numerous cases of corruption were discovered, economic difficulties returned, and his intentions to perpetuate himself as the head of government became apparent. In September 1998, the congress (in which Fujimori’s supporters had the absolute majority) dismissed the request for annulment of the Authentic Interpretation Act. This Act was a creation of Fujimori that allowed him to extend his period of government, in addition to being able to interpret the Constitution of Peru as he wanted, clearly the proposition of Fujimori surpassed the legal framework and was an ironic request because it is an illegal act according to the Peruvian law. Fujimori presented himself as a candidate for the 2000 general elections without first renouncing his position as President of the Republic.
During the first round of voting, Fujimori surpassed all of the other candidates, including Alejandro Toledo, who, arguing an alleged fraud, refused to participate in the second electoral round and called the population to vote blank. Given these events, which took place in May, Alberto Fujimori was supposedly elected by the majority, and Toledo, backed by the blank vote, barely received 17% of the votes—a negligible figure compared to Fujimori. Following Fujimori’s victory, his detractors prompted protests and, on July 28, during Fujimori’s inauguration, the March of Four Suyos was led by Alejandro Toledo. During the march, an infiltration of gangs was ordered, supposedly by Fujimori, to disorganize it and to set fire to the headquarters of the National Bank, which led to the death of six of its employees. It was speculated that the government had ordered the fire to start, given that the facilities collapsed completely despite being of noble material; additionally, in the clashes between police vehicles and protesters, the destructive magnitude was not enough to destroy a building.11
Quiroz argues that the Fujimori government caused such a worldwide scandal that many international institutions rose to denounce such violations of democracy and, above all, to denounce the corruption that was being displayed on titanic scales. The argument that Quiroz stated is immediately effective in demonstrating the evolution of the corruption system in this role, due to the new type of impact and international reaction. The way Fujimori left power is much more interesting in terms of the evaluation of the corrupt system.
Amid the political pressure and instability of his presidency, Fujimori, in his capacity as president of Peru, traveled on November 13 to the APEC Summit in Brunei. At the end of this conference, he planned to go through Kuala Lumpur and to then arrive in Tokyo, after which he would embark on a trip to Panama for the X Ibero-American Summit. However, Fujimori simply stayed in the capital of Japan for longer than he had originally intended. In the Japanese city, Fujimori stayed at the luxurious New Otani hotel, and told Agence France-Presse that “he does not want to be a disturbance factor” in Peru.
From Tokyo, he faxed the president of the Congress of the Republic his formal resignation from the Presidency and then sent a message to his supporters, announcing that he was resigning from the country’s Presidency:
“I have returned, then, to question myself about the convenience for the country of my presence and participation in this transition process. And I have concluded that I must formally renounce the Presidency of the Republic, a situation contemplated by our Constitution, in this way, to open the way to a stage of definitive political distension that allows an orderly transition and, not least, preserve the strength of our economy.”
Alberto Fujimori Fujimori,
November 19, 2000.12
Clearly, this fact adds significant meaning to the evolution of corruption, and introduces resignation as a possible result of continued corruption. Many scholars have continued to describe these facts, clearly distinct from the general meaning, as part of corruption since the beginning of Peru’s history. However, this reliable data calls attention to the development of a new specific terminology to describe the unforeseen type of corruption that was and currently is taking place in the Latin American country.
Although Fujimori had sent in his resignation, it was not accepted by Congress, and the legislative body put the presidential vacancy to a vote. Alberto Fujimori, who has been placed on an international search list since then, was then officially removed from office. Immediately, the congress got to work carrying out the necessary political measures, and ascended to power. Peruvian law at the time named the president of the congress as the executive, and Valentin Paniagua ascended to sovereignty. This government cannot be considered a democratic government, however, so this transitional period should not affect the timeline that we are maintaining in this work. In addition, it has not connection to the meaning of the new terminology that will be proposed.13
Paniagua, after six months of transitional government, called for national elections in 2001. The winner of this new electoral contest was Alejandro Toledo. Although he had denounced corruption earlier, the Toledo government (2001-2006) continued the corruption trend, and began to encompass a blatant spending of money in fine liquors and money laundering by being allegedly involved in the Odebrecht Case. Odebrecht S.A. is a Brazilian conglomerate, headquartered in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, consisting of a variety of diversified businesses in the fields of engineering, construction, chemicals, and petrochemicals. These companies have been involved in different scandals because of the sheer number of bribes given to different authorities in Latin America in order to get construction concessions.
On February 3, 2017, at the request of the Public Ministry, Peruvian National Police (PNP) agents raided the residence of Alejandro Toledo in Camacho, after Jorge Barata (the former representative of Odebrecht in Peru) revealed that 20 million dollars had been delivered as a favor for the Odebrecht Company in the concession of sections II and III of the Brazil-Peru Interoceanic Route: Odebrecht bribed Toledo to obtain the concession for the construction of these important interoceanic roads. The sum of capital was later deposited into the accounts of the Israeli billionaire Josef Maiman. On February 9, Judge Richard Concepción ordered 18 months of preventive detention for the former president, and, on February 10, the Government included him in the list of the most wanted in Peru by issuing an international arrest warrant that offered a reward of S / 100,000 soles (peruvian currency) for his whereabouts. The search warrant worked, and Toledo is currently imprisoned in the United States, and his extradition process is under evaluation.14
The strategy of corruption that is being unfolded is clearly positioned and defined in the Presidency of Peru: illicit enrichment through business bribes, excessive spending of public money, and leaks are commonplace. These facts should be considered sufficient enough to demonstrate the new pattern of corruption initiated in the mid-1980s with the García Government.
A curious factor that is added to this narrative is the post-Toledo government return of Alan García to Peru and his subsequent nomination and effective election as president in 2006. García returned to Peru in 2004, after the investigations against him had expired, and he immediately started his election campaign. Many scholars argue that Garcia’s word power, speech, and rhetorical strategy managed to convince the country to vote for him again. This statement reflects the truth; García’s oratory was powerful, manipulative to be exact, and he managed to convince more than half of the population to elect him. Alan García was elected in the 2006 General Elections with 52.62% in the second electoral round, and won against the nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala. In 2013, a mega-commission was formed that lasted five years to investigate the alleged irregularities of the second government of Alan García, with the nationalist Sergio Tejada as headline. Garcia was accused of eight different crimes after his government ended in 2011. These crimes highlight again the request for bribes, interception of communications, and the granting of millions because of favors to construction companies, including Odebrecht. The pattern is clearly maintained: corruption has evolved. On January 4, 2019, Alan García appeared before the Supreme Prosecution Office as a witness to testify in the investigation against Miguel Atala (former Vice President of PetroPerú), for having received a bribe from the Odebrecht company. On April 12, it was learned that the Prosecutor’s Office had requested an impediment to leave the country against the former Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic during the government of Alan García. The individuals were Luis Nava Guibert and his son, as they knew that they received illegal payments for 4.5 million dollars from Odebrecht. On April 16, the Judiciary Power ordered the preliminary detention of Alan García for ten days, as well as his former General Secretary of the Presidency, Luis Nava. Luis Nava later confessed to the Lava Jato special team that the deceased APRA leader received large sums of money inside lunch boxes and suitcases sent by Jorge Barata, former general manager of Odebrecht. The revelation of Luis Nava coincides, today, with the six months anniversary of the death of Alan García, who took his own life in April 17, 2019, minutes after the staff of the Division of High Complexity Investigations entered his house to execute the injunction of preventive detention against him.15
After the second government of Alan García ended in 2011, the nationalist leader Ollanta Humala came to power. Ollanta Humala was president of the Republic of Peru from July 28, 2011 until July 28, 2016, after serving time as a candidate for the electoral alliance Gana Perú in the general elections of 2011. He went to the second round and won by getting 51.45% of the vote.
On July 13, 2017, he was held on a preventive basis in the Barbadillo prison after having voluntarily surrendered. He was accused of laundering assets to the detriment of the State and of an illicit association to commit crimes in the Lava Jato case, having received funds to finance his campaign policy without declaring them. On April 26, 2018, by resolution the Constitutional Court of Peru, he was granted parole. He is currently being investigated under restricted appearance.16
Clearly, we can contrast how corruption from 1985 began to take on a certain characteristic pattern: the illicit enrichment of authorities directly involved with the government of the country. To this is added a common escape attempt, investigations of titanic levels and a high loss of national funds. These events call us to think of a new type of corruption that afflicts Peru, a type of corruption practically rooted in the presidency that seems to perpetually evolve. This set of facts, ergo, should be referred to as contemporary corruption. This is due to the pattern of events and the time in which they took place. These particular events, however, are still going on in Peru, but young leaders are beginning to take action against corruption because society has also risen against this social disease and, gradually, the justice is winning this fight against corruption. Thus, Contemporary corruption is a term that accurately describes the events of corruption by the leaders of the country from the beginning of 1985.
Alan García Pérez
My name is José Chaman, I am from Trujillo, Peru. I am an StMU 2023 student with an International and Global Studies, and Economics majors, and a Business Administration minor. I am interested in history and politics of Latin America and hope to work as a diplomat for my country and in the United Nations. I love to read, write and play the guitar. My main purpose is to help those in need, for me, service is the best way to create an egalitarian world.Author Portfolio Page