Monday, August 14, 2017

Corruption in Peru

by Selena Mitchell, Incarnate Word Missionary

Corruption. The undercurrent of injustice, wrongdoing, stealing, and lying has plagued so many government agencies. It has also disrupted daily interactions among Peruvians. It is no secret that this beautiful country regarded for its culinary arts and known for its natural wonders, struggles to progress and develop in a way where the majority can benefit and thrive. The constant push-pull of wanting to uphold justice and yet allowing short cuts to supersede the latter leads to inefficiency and suffering. However, this article will not go into the history of corruption in Peru nor the current events, although some background will be used for context. Rather the article will observe the ways in which a country’s leadership affects communities on a small scale. Thereby highlighting that even within micro-societies they lend itself to the country’s battle with corruption. The trickle down theory of economics states that over time the benefits of the wealthy will reach the majority. If this same theory is applied to behavior, business practices, and expectations, then one has a better time grasp of how corruption has infiltrated the lives of Peruvians.

Whether we choose to accept the influences of media and state leadership or not, we cannot deny that previous presidents such as Alberto Fujimori, indeed caused long term repercussions -- coming from a societal and cultural perspective. Author Julio Carrion wrote, “In the Fujimori Era [...] corruption was a primary constitutive feature of the regime. By effectively eradicating any oversight of the executive branch by the legislature or the judiciary, Fujimori and his inner circle were free from scrutiny and could act with impunity” in “The Fujimori Legacy: The Rise of Electoral Authoritarianism in Peru”. In essence Fujimori laid the groundwork for a government ridden with corruption and crime. He was able to infiltrate all aspects of the political system and remove respect for authority in the sense that the need to follow protocols and regulations wavered. His long list of wrong-doings in many ways has stayed with the country. This is not to say that Fujimori was the sole culprit of corruption in Peru but rather he was a major player in its continued existence. Unfortunately, overtime the shock value of crime decreases until one becomes jaded. When that transpires, a country has a major challenge ahead in reducing illegal actions.

A chemist professor at the University of San Pedro in Chimbote shares his perspective on corruption on a community level. He explains that one reason why people act without accountability is because their bosses have chosen to think of themselves rather than the whole. In other words, the system of checks and balances has slowly degraded over time. Indirectly he is supporting the argument that Fujimori and the overall Peruvian government holds responsibility for not being able to uphold procedures and justice as it should. Such that those within power and those striving to obtain it are unable to distinguish between right and wrong. Specifically in Chimbote, although similar behaviors can probably be found throughout Peru, there is this mindset that things are not going to change so therefore why try to change them. Perhaps this outlook derives from the years of living under an overall unsupportive government and police system. But the resulting actions or lack thereof often equate to being unsupportive or undermining to one another.

The ease that comes from paying off a police officer to avoid getting a ticket or for having outdated car documents should be startling. Yet, it has become the norm. Just as plans for a new construction project is priced higher than calculated and the extra money benefits the companies, has become common knowledge, but should be startling. Similarly when a politician assists a non-profit agency to receive a scholarship or operating funds, it is almost expected that a portion of that money will be given to the politician, also known as a kickback. These examples of real life occurrences are just some of the ways in which corruption in simple forms take place. Of course, these examples do not represent all Peruvians but surely some. Like myself, many often wonder where these behaviors derive from. Are they a result of poverty or greed?

Knowing the answer to that question may never be made evident. However, the earliest form of a classroom is the home. Children and parents learn their moral code, manners, and cultural norms from family members and friends. Should we want future generations to live in a more just and accountable society, we must first take ownership of our own behaviors and how we influence those around us. An educated community gains power by knowing their rights as citizens. Thereby acquiring the ability to check the power of the local government and the police force. Because when all is said and done, a government without a community cannot run well. To continue to allow the instances previously mentioned to occur, permits the erosion of the system’s foundation. One would only hope that through education and accountability those caught in corruption will be prosecuted. With the long term result of ending the people’s suffering and preventing the daily microaggressions against one another. 

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