CRS Report for Congress
Peruvian Elections in 2000:
Congressional Concerns and Policy Approaches
Maureen Taft-Morales
Analyst in Latin American Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
In a vote that observers said did not meet minimum conditions for a free and fair
election, President Alberto Fujimori of Peru won a third term on May 28. The United
States urged sanctions, but the OAS sent a high-level mission to press Peru for
democratic reforms instead. Corruption scandals and lessened support led Fujimori to
agree to new elections in April 2001 and then, on November 20, to resign.
The 106th Congress called for the review and modification of U.S. relations with
Peru if elections were not judged free and fair by international observers, and then for the
withholding of aid if democratic progress was not made. Other concerns, particularly the
curbing of illegal drug trafficking and protecting security interests, affect how the United
States responds to the situation in Peru. Options for Congress range from a cautious
approach aimed at protecting security interests to applying greater pressure on the
government of Peru to respect and develop democratic processes.
Background to Peru’s Elections1
Peru’s first round elections were held on April 9, 2000. All 120 seats of the
unicameral legislature were contested along with the presidency. Incumbent President
Alberto Fujimori ran for an unprecedented third term. First elected in 1990, Fujimori did
much to tame destabilizing factors such as terrorism, drug trafficking, hyperinflation, and
border disputes. But Fujimori’s efforts to maintain power created constitutional crises in
Peru, and left its democratic institutions extremely weak. Traditional political parties were
discredited in the 1980s, and current parties are mainly vehicles for an individual’s

1 Sources for this report include U.S. Department of State, 1999 Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices, 2/25/00, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 3/00, press releases;
Statements of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs/Carter Center Election
Delegation to Peru, 12/3/99-5/3/00; Freedom House, Press Freedom Survey, 1/1/99; OAS Inter-
American Commission on Human Rights, annual report 1998; articles from major news sources.
Congressional Research Service The Library of Congress

Basic elements of a democracy include effective and independent legislative and
judicial branches of government, freedom of expression, respect for human rights, and free
elections. A broad array of organizations, both domestic and international, have criticized
Fujimori for impeding the development of these democratic elements. Fujimori effectively
controls both the legislature and judiciary, inhibiting the development of either as
independent democratic institutions. Freedom House classifies Peru, with a population of
25 million, as the only country in the hemisphere, besides Cuba, where the press is “not
free.” The State Department’s 2000 Human Rights report says that despite some
improvements, the Peruvian “Government’s human rights record was poor in several
areas” in 1999, including in the protection of civil and political rights, extrajudicial killings
by security forces, and lack of accountability within the armed forces.
In terms of the electoral environment, an international pre-election delegation to Peru
organized by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the
Carter Center stated on March 24, 2000 that, “The conditions for a fair election campaign
have not been established. Irreparable damage to the integrity of the election process has
already been done, but improvements still can and should be made because candidates and
parties are competing, citizens are participating in the process, and the electoral outcomes
are not assured.”
In early March, support for one of the other eight presidential challengers, Alejandro
Toledo, began to rise dramatically, suddenly calling into question the long-held assumption
that Fujimori would win the election in the first round. Toledo, a former adviser to the
World Bank, holds a doctorate in economics from Stanford University, and emphasizes
his humble origins – he is one of 16 children from a poor family and shined shoes as a boy
– and his Indian ancestry. Continued economic reform and ethnic pride were key issues
in his campaign.
No candidate won more than 50% of the votes, so a second round of elections were
to be held for the presidency May 28. But both Peruvian and international observers
reported that conditions for a free and fair election still did not exist. The Organization
of American States (OAS) observer mission and Peruvian monitoring organization,
Transparencia, withdrew from monitoring the election the week before the runoff. Toledo
withdrew from the race and called for a national boycott of the elections. All said they
would reconsider participating in the elections if they were delayed to allow time to
resolve computer problems and other irregularities. Fujimori would not delay the vote.
Official results showed that, of total votes cast, Fujimori won 51.2%, Toledo 17.7%.
Toledo had called on voters to boycott the vote or spoil their ballots; almost 30% of
ballots were spoiled.
The Electoral Environment
Opposition candidates and many other observers believe that electoral conditions in
Peru did not represent a “level playing field” but an environment that heavily, and often
unfairly, favored the incumbent. Numerous Peruvian and international election monitoring
organizations and press coverage indicated areas of concern such as the executive branch’s
manipulation of the judicial system to achieve its desired outcome, questions regarding
the independence and impartiality of the electoral bodies responsible for organizing Peru’s
elections, and use of public resources for campaign purposes. Concerns regarding

freedom of the press and access to information involved unequal media access, media bias,
and harassment of candidates and domestic election observers.
The Re-election Issue. Many civic groups and other observers question the
constitutionality of Fujimori’s bid for a third term. The controversy revolves around
whether Fujimori’s first term should be counted toward the current constitution’s two-
term limit, and Fujimori’s manipulation of the political system to ensure he could run for
a third term. The constitution under which Fujimori was first elected in 1990 limited
presidents to one term. In what became known as a “self-coup,” Fujimori dissolved
Congress and took control of the judiciary in 1992. He then oversaw the drafting of a new
constitution that went into effect in 1993 and which allowed a president to serve two
consecutive terms. Fujimori ran again, and won a second five-year term in 1995.
In 1996, the legislature, dominated by a pro-Fujimori majority, passed a “Law of
Authentic Interpretation” which stated that Fujimori’s election under the old constitution
did not count against the two-term limit of the current constitution, essentially paving the
way for Fujimori to run for a third term. In 1997, the Constitutional Tribunal issued an
opinion that the Law of Authentic Interpretation was not applicable, with three members
of the court signing, and four abstaining. The three members who signed the opinion were
removed from the Tribunal by the Congress. The Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights recommended in 1998 that the government reinstate the three dismissed justices
and restore the Tribunal’s power to rule on constitutional issues. The government
announced it would not comply with the recommendation, leaving the Tribunal without
the quorum needed to rule on a law’s constitutionality, its main function.
Civic organizations wished to put the matter of a third term to a national referendum,
and collected some 1.4 million signatures – more than the 10% of registered voters’
signatures required to do so. The National Elections Tribunal (Jurado Nacional de
Elecciones, or JNE) thwarted this effort by reversing an earlier decision and declaring that
Congress had to approve the referendum issue before it could proceed. Congress then
killed the referendum by voting against it. Citizens’ ability to challenge such actions was
further hampered by the Constitutional Tribunal’s inability to act, and by Fujimori’s
withdrawal of Peru from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights.
When President Fujimori registered his candidacy in December 1999, 18 motions
challenging it were immediately filed before the JNE by civic groups, opposition political
parties, and the Bar Association of Lima. The JNE, which, according to the Constitution,
resolves all electoral controversies, rejected all 18 motions within days. According to the
NDI/Carter Center’s second report, all of these steps appeared to be “an orchestration
aimed to ensure a specific legal outcome on the issues of the President standing for re-
election – irrespective of the merits of the legal arguments.” Taken as a whole, the report
said, “these measures undermine the credibility of the political process in Peru.”
Freedom of the Press. Concern over the lack of freedom of the press in Peru did
not begin with the election campaign period. Members of the Peruvian press have
repeatedly complained of government interference in their work throughout much of
Fujimori’s tenure. Journalists there have been threatened to the extent that some have
sought political asylum in the United States; two have been killed in recent years. Since
1992, according to Freedom House, “many print and broadcast journalists have been
pressured into self-censorship by a broad government campaign of intimidation [which

includes] death threats, libel suits, withholding of advertising, police harassment, arbitrary
detention, and physical mistreatment.” The OAS Special Rapporteur for Freedom of
Expression reported receiving evidence that “would indicate that certain sectors of the
Peruvian government [including the Peruvian Intelligence Service] have the intention of
silencing journalists who have expressed opinions critical of authorities.”
Throughout the election period, smear campaigns against leading opposition
candidates were waged in the tabloid press. Domestic election monitors, the Ombudsman’s
Office, and news media critical of the government were also vilified by elements of the
media, according to various international reports. Many observers believe these efforts
were orchestrated by government officials. Access to the media was also reported to be
highly imbalanced. Opposition candidate Toledo said modest improvements in media
coverage just prior to elections were insufficient to make up for months of unfair and dirty
tactics, which, in addition to the smear campaigns against him, he said included phone-
taps, harassment, and death threats. Toledo said he would not re-enter the race unless he
was also guaranteed equal access to the media.
U.S. Interests in Peru
The United States and Peru enjoy generally friendly relations. The United States
provided almost $120 million in economic assistance to Peru in 1999, and the Clinton
Administration requested about $121 million for Peru for 2000. The stated goals of U.S.
assistance are broader citizen participation and more responsive government; increased
incomes for Peru’s poor; improved health of high risk populations; improved
environmental conditions; and reduced production of illicit narcotics.
The primary U.S. interest in Peru has been the reduction of illicit drugs production
and trafficking. Peru is considered fully cooperative in working towards the goals of the
U.S.-Peruvian counternarcotics framework agreement. Under Fujimori, Peru reduced
illegal production of coca leaf by 66% over the past 4 years. Nonetheless, Peru remains
one of the world’s largest suppliers of coca leaf for cocaine. In legislation and committee
reports the 106th Congress expressed concern, however, about the Clinton
Administration’s provision of counternarcotics assistance to the Peruvian intelligence
service, which is widely reported to be responsible for a wide array of human rights
The United States has also been concerned about security in Peru and the Andean
region. Fujimori enhanced security on a national level, although his government also had
one of the worst human rights records in the Western Hemisphere. He greatly debilitated
Peru’s two guerrilla insurgency groups, the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) and the
Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), which, at the time Fujimori took office,
had terrorized the country for a decade. In 1995, a long-standing border conflict between
Peru and Ecuador flared briefly into armed conflict; in 1998 the two countries signed an
agreement to resolve the dispute peacefully.
U.S. Response to Election Conditions in Peru
Early in Peru’s electoral process, the House and Senate passed resolutions (H.Res.

57, passed October 4, 1999; S.Res. 209, passed November 8, 1999) expressing concern

over interference with freedom of the press and the independence of judicial and electoral
institutions in Peru; the House called such actions “a threat to democracy in that country.”
The Clinton Administration funded election monitoring missions by the NDI and Carter
Center, who, at the invitation of Peru’s government, began conducting evaluations of
electoral conditions in Peru in December 1999. In early March 2000, the Clinton
Administration echoed the mission’s serious concerns about pre-election conditions in
Peru, outlining seven specific steps the Peruvian government should take to establish
confidence in the political and electoral processes, including encouraging improved media
coverage of the election process “so voters can make informed and free choices at the
ballot box,” and ceasing attacks on opposition candidates, domestic election observers,
and Peru’s Ombudsman. Late in March, the NDI/Carter Center mission acknowledged
steps taken by Peru’s government to respond to earlier recommendations, but stated that
many of these steps came late,“and have not proven sufficient to overcome the media
disadvantage for the opposition, to overcome the apparent lack of public awareness about
voting procedures or to counteract perceptions of impunity for electoral abuse.” The
Clinton Administration concurred with these findings, and similar ones by the OAS,
stating that the government’s actions “still fall far short of what is required to ensure a
fully democratic process....”
Peru’s April 9 elections were followed by three tense days of delayed results,
widespread suspicion of fraud, and public protests. After international observers said they
would not validate a first-round victory by President Fujimori, Peru announced there
would be a second round of elections, though election officials denied there was any
connection between the two acts. A runoff was scheduled for May 28 between Fujimori,
whom election officials said won 49.84% of the vote, and Alejandro Toledo, officially
reported to have won 40.31%. Because ballots were destroyed after being tallied, as
allowed by Peruvian law, proving ballot tampering or conducting a re-count, was
impossible. President Clinton signed a congressional resolution emphasizing the
importance of free, fair, and democratic elections in Peru and warning that U.S. policy
toward Peru would be reviewed in the absence of such elections (see below).
Leading up to the runoff election, the NDI/Carter Center delegation reported on
May 5 that: “Unless immediate and comprehensive improvements are made to the political
environment surrounding the presidential runoff election, as well as to administrative and
technical procedures required for election day and the consolidation of results, Peru’s
election process will ultimately fail to meet minimum international standards for
democratic elections....At this junction, however, the credibility of the election process is
at risk.” The OAS’s assessments were similar, and the OAS called for a delay in the runoff
elections to correct computer and other problems that left the process open to fraud. The
Clinton Administration said it supported the OAS’s recommendations.
Following the elections, the Clinton Administration at first called the election invalid.
After other hemispheric nations refused to follow suit, the Administration softened its
stance to an expression of “deep regret” that Peru had proceeded with the vote under
conditions judged as unfair by the OAS observer mission. The OAS rejected U.S. efforts
to condemn Peru’s elections, and impose sanctions. Instead it passed a resolution
expressing concern over election irregularities, and sent a high-level mission to Peru to
press for democratic reforms. OAS officials met with Fujimori, Toledo, and other members
of the political community. They issued an agenda calling for reforms to establish an
independent judicial system, guarantee press freedom, correct flaws in the electoral

process, and provide oversight of the military and intelligence services. The OAS set up
a permanent office in Lima to mediate a national dialogue and oversee implementation of
the reforms by late 2002.
In the midst of negotiations with the opposition on the reform agenda, corruption
scandals broke relating to intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos. Fujimori agreed to
early elections, in April 2001, in which he said he would not run, and then, as he lost more
support, he resigned, on Nov. 20. A constitutionally appointed interim government,
headed by President Valentin Paniagua, is overseeing preparations for the April elections.
Congressional Policy Approaches. Some observers advocate a cautious response
to the weakening of democratic practices in Peru: the United States should continue to
encourage the government to take steps to further democratic processes in Peru, but not
take strong actions against the government. Such advocates argue that the United States
has greater concerns in the region, such as economic and political instability in Colombia,
Ecuador, and Venezuela. With crises fomenting in Peru’s neighboring countries, this view
advocates avoiding stimulating crises in Peru, which under Fujimori had become politically
and economically more stable than in the past. Noting that historically the United States
has had minimal influence on Peru, this approach would avoid antagonizing Peru’s
government in order to ensure continued cooperation on counternarcotics and other
issues of U.S. concern. Opponents to this approach argue that further erosion of
democratic practices in Peru is itself a destabilizing force in Peru and in the region, and
needs to be addressed aggressively to protect U.S. interests.
Others advocate applying greater political pressure on the government of Peru to
respect democracy. This approach is buoyed by past U.S. successes, in conjunction with
the international community in recent years, in pressuring Peru to enact democratic
reforms, such as the reestablishment of the Peruvian Congress in 1993, the holding of
elections in 1995, and the creation in 2000 of a commission to review allegations of
innocent Peruvians in jail on terrorist charges. Peru adopted some suggestions made by
the Department of State and the NDI/Carter Center pre-election delegation in the recent
election process. Winning reelection under what have been judged to be unfair conditions
would not by law automatically trigger formal economic sanctions as happens in the case
of a military coup. But some observers said an election fraudulently won would be the
equivalent of a civilian coup d’état, and urged sanctions and withdrawal of recognition
when observers deemed that to be the case in Peru.
Congress called for pressure to be applied if Peru does not improve its respect for
democracy. S.J.Res. 43/ P.L. 106-186 called for modifying U.S. political, economic, and
military relations with Peru, and working with other democracies toward a restoration of
democracy in Peru, should elections be deemed not free or fair. Supporters mentioned
reevaluating support for international financial institution loans to Peru as one means of
applying economic pressure. Opponents might urge caution in any approach they believe
could contribute to instability in Peru.
The FY2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (P.L.106-429, Sec.530), signed
Oct. 24, 2000, calls for periodic Administration reports on whether Peru has made
progress in democratic development; prohibits funds to Peru unless progress has been
made; earmarks funds for nongovernmental organizations and the OAS to promote