Election of Members of Constitutional Court Sparks Protests in Peru

[All links are to Spanish-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

The election by Peru's Congress of various representatives to positions in certain state institutions provoked protests not just in the political arena and some organizations, but equally among many people on social networks and even a group of young people who took took the streets. 

The media and various analysts have been demanding that Congress appoint these public servants, given that the matter has been repeatedly delayed. In the case of the public Ombudsman, for example, its senior post has been provisionally occupied since March of 2011, a fact that weakens the institution. Nevertheless, it would seem that the long awaited appointment might in fact cause greater harm to public institutions as a whole.

To begin with, the suitability of candidates for the different offices has been strongly questioned. Pilar Freitas, the new Ombudswoman, has a few outstanding complaints against her and has been accused of favouring fujimoristas [followers of former president Alberto Fujimori's [en] ideology] in the exercise of her previous job as attorney. The candidates for the Constitutional Court are the target of similar questioning to varying degrees. Moreover, on Tuesday, July 16, the newspaper Perú1 published audio transcripts of negotiations that occurred prior to the vote and political postings that reflected partisan interests.

Foto compartida por Elard Paredes @elardrodrigo en Twitter

“National shame”. Photo shared by Elard Paredes @elardrodrigo on Twitter

In light of this, on the morning of July 17, a motion was presented before Congress that candidates not be voted into office as a block, but instead on an individual basis. However, the motion was rejected, which induced the legislators from the Frente Amplio-Acción Popular (AP-FA), Concertación Parlamentaria (CP) and Solidaridad Nacional (SN) to leave the chamber. Requests to suspend the vote were also refused. Once it was over, requests to reconsider the vote were similarly rejected.

As a result, six judges of the Constitutional Court (TC), three members of the Central Reserve Bank (BCR) and the Ombudswoman were appointed by a plenary session of the Congress of the Republic in an election process that has been called a “shameful pact“, since it is evidence of the alliance between representatives of Gana Perú (GP), Fuerza Popular (FP) and Perú Posible (PP) to ensure the nomination of people to high office who answer to partisan loyalties above and beyond the rightful exercise of their duties.

On Facebook, the educator León Trahtemberg reflected upon the political mediocrity and lack of any hope of improvement which, among other things, can be traced back to the poor ethical and civic conscience imparted by the country's educational institutions.

El Gobierno y los congresistas sabían que se armaría lío con la repartija de los miembros del TC [Tribunal Constitucional], BCR [Banco Central de Reserva] y DP [Defensoría del Pueblo]. ¿Por qué insistieron? Quizá saben que la grita dura una semana y luego no pasa nada. Ya pasó y pasa a cada rato […] Cuando los gobernantes y políticos no revisan decisiones por propia voluntad, ni por los escándalos que generan, es señal de enorme podredumbre y obliga a preguntar ¿cómo se logra gestar una nueva generación de políticos, que no sean imagen y semejanza de sus predecesores de quienes aprenden y quienes les abren las puertas para sumarse a los movimientos políticos ya existentes que ellos lideran?

The Government and members of Congress knew that there would be a fight over the distribution of appointees to the TC [Constitutional Court], the BCR [Central Reserve Bank] and the DP [Ombudsman]. Why did they insist? Maybe they know that the outcry lasts a week and then nothing happens. It has occurred before and does so every once in a while […] When those in power and politics do not review decisions of their own volition, nor for the scandals they generate, it is a sign of endemic rot and prompts the question of how we are going to manage a new generation of politicians without them being the spitting image of their predecessors, from whom they learned and who paved the way for them to join the ranks of the very political movements they spearhead?

Also on Facebook, Mar Mounier referred to past elections and the traditional uninformed vote when she described the following:

“Mi voto no es un cheque en blanco” decían los “dignos”. Vayan y miren los ceros que se escribieron hoy en esos votos. Avergüénzate ¡oh reserva moral del país! que sin escuchar las miles de denuncias en contra de esta inmundicia durante campañas electorales, igual, los elegiste. Pobre mi país.

“My vote is not a blank cheque” said the “worthy ones.” Go and see the zeros that were written today in those votes. Shame on you. Oh the moral reserve of the country! that without listening to the thousands of condemnations of this filth during the electoral campaign, all the same, you elected them. My poor country.

Social networks began filling up with comments and messages calling for protests. The central Plaza San Martín became a meeting point, at five in the afternoon of 17 July, from which to walk to the Congress. However, the people who met there encountered a strong police presence, which did not hesitate to use force and tear gas to prevent access in the vicinity of the Congress and other restricted areas so that no demonstrations could be held in the Centre of Lima.

On Twitter, the labels #EstecongresoNOmerepresenta and #TodosAlCongreso became local trending topics with messages of support for the protest and encouraging people to go out and demonstrate, but also criticism of those who voted for the current authorities and legislators. For example, user José Andrés Pohl (@josepohls) tweeted:

#EsteCongresoNoMeRepresenta (Congress does not represent me), so…Who does it represent? Were they not democratically elected? Let's see if now you'll read before voting.

Meanwhile user @elcomerrio speculated about the political landscape and possible presidential actions:

It seems that it was part of a plan for citizens to request the closure of Congress and for Cosito [President Humala] to perform a self-serving coup.

And the congressman from the Fuerza Popular benches (fujimorista) Carlos Tubino  (@TubinoCarlos) defended the congressional election:

There is political conscensus, Congress Represents the Political Forces of the Country, in today's vote Prior Agreements were respected, Minorities DO NOT Give Orders

On Thursday, July 18, President Ollanta Humala declared that the new Ombudswoman, Pilar Freitas, and the new Constitutional Court judge, Rolando Sousa, should “step aside”—that is, renounce their new positions due to lingering questions and for not having met the expectations of the people. As of writing this post, there has not been a reply by either of those mentioned.

The social networks are talking about new calls for demonstrations in Lima's Plaza San Martín: a sit-in for the 22nd and a march on July 27. Moreover protests were being organized in Trujillo and in Arequipa.

Post originally published on the blog Globalizado by Juan Arellano.

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