The Ombudsman is seen as a prestigious, trustworthy and credible state institution. Its work on the Ad
Hoc Pardon Commission, its defense of democratic institutionality, its declarations on important issues,
and its attention to citizen complaints, have all fostered an excellent public image for both the institution
and the current
, Dr. Jorge Santistevan.
The Ombudsman has also served a quasi judicial review capacity, successfully challenging the
constitutionality of certain laws. There were supportive rulings from the Constitutional Tribunal, in some
cases forcing the recession of such laws by the Congress. Many other recommendations have been
accepted and put into practice. Recently, however, high government officials and sectors of the press
linked to the Government have launched attacks against the Ombudsman and against the
himself, in an attempt to cast doubt on the performance of the institution and undermine its authority.
The Ombudsman can and does exert important political and moral influence in the political arena,
particularly in the enforcement of human rights, constitutionality, and democratic institutions. Public
opinion and influential sectors of the free press remain important backers of the Ombudsman. The
agency's continued effectiveness as an oversight authority, however, seems to depend to an
uncomfortable degree on the forbearance of the government, whose differences with the Ombudsman
grow deeper by the day. The future of this agency will be tested when the current
term in April 2001, as much seems to depend on whether Congress will re nominate the present
or designate a credible successor.
In summary, the primary actors responsible for the current limitations on the legal and judicial arena in
Peru include the Congressional majority, acting in the interests of the Executive and, in recent years,
primarily dedicated to assuring the reelection of President Fujimori. Those authorities designated to
undertake judicial reform are also responsible, to the extent that they have instead collaborated with the
current political manipulation of this sector.
While limitations on the rule of law is a fundamental problem in Peru today, to date there has been no
political will in the central government to reform this sector from above, and there are few effective
allies within the currenet Judiciary or Public Ministry working for a strategy of reform from within.
The primary exception has been the Ombudsman. There are also honest magistrates within the system
who remain committed to reform, as well as individual figures within the Lawyers' Association. The
former are few, and they fear for their job stability. The Lawyers' Association has not an effective agent
for change in recent years because it is grappling with its own internal problems.
The OAS mission gave judicial independence and reform the highest priority in the list of proposed
reforms it presented to the Peruvian government in June 2000, and specifically cited the need to dissolve
the Executive Commission, reestablish the Tribunal Constitucional, and resolve the problem of the
provisionality of judges. However, it is too soon to tell whether the government will respond favorably
to recommendations in this sphere.
Democratic theory and historical practice demonstrate that competition lies at the heart of a democracy,
permitting citizens to choose and change their government and hold authorities accountable. A fully
competitive democracy involves a free and fair electoral process and a working party system. It also
involves the free competition of ideas and public policies, which requires a broadly permissive political
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