2014 Scores

Status: Free
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst): 2.5
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst): 3
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst): 2


President Ollanta Humala's approval rating declined during 2013 as his administration faced political turbulence, including multiple small crises that led to cabinet changes and added to a public perception of policy drift. Polling identified crime as the top source of discontent among Peruvian citizens, and the government's lack of effective action in preventing it – coupled with seemingly dismissive statements – contributed to the resignation of Prime Minister Juan Jiménez in October. Other prominent subjects of political debate included the possible 2016 presidential candidacy of the current first lady, an ongoing controversy over the medical and penal status of imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori, and corruption investigations focused on the administrations of Humala's predecessors.

In March, Lima mayor Susana Villarán narrowly won a recall referendum led by allies of her predecessor, Luis Castañeda, whose administration Villarán had accused of corruption. Her opponents had pointed to her low poll numbers and accused her of mismanagement and ineffectiveness, but she secured 51 percent of the referendum vote.

In November a new scandal erupted when it was revealed that Óscar López Meneses, a close associate of Fujimori's notorious intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, had been receiving 24-hour police protection. The police and the military engaged in mutual blame, and both Interior Minister Wilfredo Pedraza and presidential security adviser Adrián Villafuerte resigned. The subsequent discovery of a forged document with Humala's signature authorizing the protection brought additional attention to the shadowy links between disgraced former state operatives and their counterparts in active service.

Peru continued to face high levels of social conflict; while individual episodes are often sparked by environmental issues related to extractive industries, the conflicts also involve broader issues of class, inequality, and social marginalization, and are fueled by complex local politics. Nonetheless, protest-related violence declined considerably from 2012, as several of the most intractable disputes remained at a low simmer during the year.


Political Rights: 30 / 40

A. Electoral Process: 10 / 12

The president and the 130-member, unicameral Congress are elected for five-year terms. Congressional balloting employs an open-list, region-based system of proportional representation, with a 5 percent vote hurdle for a party to enter the legislature.

The 2011 elections, while sharply polarized, were deemed generally free and fair by international observers. However, shortcomings included lack of enforcement of campaign finance norms and pressure on media outlets by powerful economic interests in support of losing presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former president. With various candidates dividing the center, the leftist Humala and right-wing Fujimori were the top finishers in the April first round. In the runoff in June, Humala won by a margin of three points, 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent.

In the concurrent legislative elections, an alliance led by Humala's Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) captured 47 of the 130 seats, followed by Fujimori's Force 2011 grouping with 38 seats and former president Alejandro Toledo's Perú Posible with 21 seats. Two smaller parties, the Alliance for Major Change and the National Solidarity Alliance, secured 12 and 8 seats, respectively, and former president Alan García's Peruvian Aprista Party (APRA) captured just 4 seats. The new president's Peru Wins alliance forged a congressional majority with Perú Posible.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 13 / 16

Peruvian parties, while competitive, are both highly fragmented and extremely personalized. First Lady Nadine Heredia has denied any intention of succeeding her husband – which would be unconstitutional under current Peruvian law – but in late December 2013 she took over leadership of the PNP, fueling another round of speculation about her political aspirations.

Regional presidents have become important political actors over the last decade; former San Martín regional president César Villanueva was appointed prime minister in October 2013. Regional and local elections in October 2010 resulted in a moderately increased consolidation of regionally based political movements. The next round of regional elections will occur in October 2014. Despite political decentralization, the concerns of ethnic and cultural minorities, especially in remote mountain or jungle zones, remain inadequately addressed among parties with national scope, which contributes to regular episodes of acute social conflict in the provinces.

C. Functioning of Government: 7 / 12

Corruption is a serious problem. Checks on campaign financing are particularly weak at the local level, where drug traffickers' influence is perceived to have grown in recent years. Peruvians rated corruption as the most negative aspect of García's 2006-11 presidency, and a congressional commission charged with investigating corruption among García administration officials neared completion of its work at the end of 2013, finding multiple areas of potential legal culpability for García and officials in his government. Perhaps the most prominent example was the alleged sale of presidential pardons, through which scores of convicted narcotics traffickers were released from prison. Meanwhile, a separate congressional commission continued to investigate former president Toledo regarding allegations of corrupt and fraudulent real estate transactions. Some government agencies have made progress on transparency, but much information related to defense and security policies remains secret under a 2012 law. Peru was ranked 83 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Civil Liberties: 41 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 15 / 16

The lively press is for the most part privately owned. Officials and private actors sometimes intimidate or even attack journalists in response to negative coverage. The local press watchdog Institute for Press and Society registered 60 attacks against journalists in 2013. Low pay leaves reporters susceptible to bribery, and media outlets remain dependent on advertising by large retailers. Defamation remains criminalized, and several journalists were convicted and given suspended sentences in 2013, with Áncash regional president César Álvarez proving especially aggressive in the use of legal cases to harass reporters. In August 2013, the El Comercio conglomerate, which already controlled a large swath of the newspaper market, purchased the EPENSA newspaper group, creating a company with a nearly 80 percent market share and sparking an intense debate over ownership concentration. The government does not limit access to the internet.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. However, the Roman Catholic Church receives preferential treatment from the state. The government does not restrict academic freedom.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 8 / 12

The constitution provides for the right to peaceful assembly, and the authorities uphold this right for the most part. However, the executive branch has issued several decrees in recent years that limit police and military responsibility in the event of injury or death during demonstrations. It has also frequently resorted to declarations of states of emergency and done little to prevent excessive use of force by security personnel when confronting protests. In June 2013 Congress passed a law that formally exempts security force members from responsibility for violence undertaken while "fulfilling their duties."

According to the government, 191 Peruvians died in episodes of social conflict during the García administration, including 38 police and soldiers; several thousand others faced charges for protest-related incidents. At least 24 more protesters were killed by government forces during the first 18 months of Humala's term, but deaths declined to nine in 2013. Analysts frequently observe that the government's approach to local grievances, which often involve environmental issues, typically eschews mediation and early intervention in favor of reactive repression by militarized police units and sometimes military forces. Over 50 community members involved in the 2009 Bagua protests, which left 10 protesters and 23 police officers dead and over 200 people injured, were facing trial in 2013, while very few members of the police or military have faced charges for protest-related incidents in recent years. As of year's end the Constitutional Tribunal (TC) had not yet ruled on the constitutionality of a 2010 law broadening military jurisdiction when the security forces are involved in civilian deaths.

Freedom of association is generally respected, but conservative politicians frequently allege that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) hinder economic development. Antimining activists, including noted environmental leader Marco Arana, have been subjected to arbitrary arrest or faced questionable legal charges in recent years, while several NGOs have experienced various forms of intimidation.

Peruvian law recognizes the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. Workers must notify the Ministry of Labor in advance of a strike, with the result that nearly all strikes are categorized as illegal in practice. Less than 10 percent of the formal-sector workforce is unionized. Parallel unionism and criminal infiltration of the construction sector in Lima have led to a series of disputes and murders.

F. Rule of Law: 8 / 16

The judiciary is widely distrusted and prone to corruption scandals. While the TC is relatively independent, its autonomy has undergone a mix of setbacks and advances in recent years. A 2008 Judicial Career Law improved the entry, promotion, and evaluation system for judges, and the judiciary's internal disciplinary body has been highly active. The terms of six of the TC's seven members had expired by the end of 2012, but the process of appointing new justices has been delayed on multiple occasions. In July 2013 Congress agreed to allocate the six TC seats, along with three Central Bank positions and a new ombudsman's office, along partisan lines. The TC appointments were particularly controversial, and thousands of Lima residents protested in response, causing the government to rescind all the appointments and initiate a new process that remained ongoing at year's end.

A majority of inmates are in pretrial detention, and the inmate population is far above the system's intended capacity. Since 2006, an adversarial justice system designed to improve the speed and fairness of judicial proceedings has slowly been implemented. Access to justice, particularly for poor Peruvians, remains problematic, and crime has risen. According to figures from the government's statistical agency, 41 percent of Peruvians reported being the victim of a crime in the first half of 2013. Although the government has formulated various reform plans, implementation has remained slow.

Ten years after the 2003 publication of Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on the internal conflict against Shining Path guerrillas, which took 69,000 lives in the 1980s and 1990s, rights watchers noted that although justice had been served in significant cases – above all the conviction of Alberto Fujimori for overseeing death-squad killings and two kidnappings – the military continues to place numerous obstacles in the path of investigators regarding past violations. The García government made almost no efforts to prioritize justice for cases of human rights abuses by state actors during the 1980s and 1990s, and the Humala administration has remained similarly passive. Lawyers for accused rights violators have focused in recent years on narrowing the legal definition of crimes against humanity, which under Peru's treaty obligations have no statute of limitations. To the dismay of rights groups, in September 2013 the TC ruled that the government's suppression of a 1986 prison riot, which killed 133 prisoners, could not be considered a crime against humanity. However, rights advocates hailed Humala's decision in June 2013 to deny Fujimori's request for a medical pardon.

Remnants of the Shining Path, which are involved in the drug trade, continue to clash with security forces in the Apurimac-Ene River Valley (VRAE) and Upper Huallaga zones. Coca eradication efforts and economic development programs in other regions have failed to reverse a trend toward increased coca production. However, deaths of security force members declined to three in 2013, from 20 the previous year, and in August the military killed two top Shining Path leaders in the VRAE zone. In 2012, the government sent Congress a bill that would criminalize the denial of terrorism; following complaints about the law's scope, the government submitted a narrower version, which remained under consideration throughout 2013.

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 10 / 16

Discrimination against the indigenous population remains pervasive, particularly with regard to land use and property rights. Regulations to implement the 2011 Law of Prior Consultation were issued in April 2012, and the first formal process was completed in 2013. However, the process had yet to be tested in areas where the balance of resource extraction and environmental protection is highly contested, and rights groups worry that the government's need for mining revenue will continue to take precedence over indigenous people's environmental concerns. In October 2013 the Ministry of Culture presented a database of indigenous groups to whom the consultation mechanism would apply, but rights groups questioned both the database's methodology and the government's commitment to real engagement with indigenous groups.

In recent years, women have advanced into leadership roles in various companies and government agencies. Although legal protections have improved, domestic violence is epidemic, with over half of Peruvian women reporting instances of physical or emotional abuse. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people also face frequent discrimination in Peru. In 2013 a bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation failed in Congress, and repeated attempts to introduce a bill legalizing same-sex civil unions have been unable to gain legislative traction.

Forced labor, including child labor, persists in the gold-mining region of the Amazon.

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.