Peruvians vote on Sunday in a referendum that could empower a sweeping overhaul of the country’s judiciary and a loathed political class following a string of scandals that have laid bare the corruption at the heart of Peru’s public institutions. The referendum comes at the end of a year of hitherto unimaginable political upsets beginning when the president Pedro Pablo Kuczysnki was forced to resign over corruption allegations in March and followed by the jailing in November of his principal adversary, the powerful opposition leader Keiko Fujimori. Four former Peruvian presidents are now under investigation for taking bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which has admitted to paying out $30m in Peru – just a fraction of the estimated $800m the firm has admitted to handing out as kickbacks across Latin America, making it the continent’s biggest-ever corruption scandal.
Seeing their political leaders in court (and in Fujimori’s case jailed in preventative detention), would have been unthinkable for most Peruvians – who wearily assumed such figures were untouchable.
But after a series of scandals involving crooked judges and double-dealing politicians, public indignation reached boiling point and the country’s “accidental president”, Martín Vizcarra, has become an unexpected people’s champion.
A low-profile former regional governor, Vizcarra was Kuczysnki’s vice-president but has focused on the fight against corruption, a problem that has dominated Latin America’s political agenda.