Eliana Revollar, Ombudsman of Peru: “There are counter-reforms in Congress” | International
After ten months of confrontations between Congress and the Peruvian government, including three attempts to impeach President Pedro Castillo, the acting Ombudsman, Eliana Revollar, finds that political polarization in Peru is hindering progress in education. For example, gender-equal school curriculum and quality monitoring in universities. The official also warns about a Parliament bill that proposes the modification of a fourth part of the Constitution and would allow the deputies to dismiss the heads of the electoral organisms, an attribution that they do not currently have. “Electoral system bodies should always be well removed from power,” she warns.
The germ of the clashes between the Executive and the parliamentary opposition was the second electoral round of 2021. Castillo, a former teacher union leader, won the conservative candidate Keiko Fujimori by just over 44,000 votes in the second round, but she and her allies from far right tried to annul thousands of votes in favor of the rural teacher. Although the international electoral observation missions described the elections as transparent and in accordance with the law, the conservative formations maintained that there was fraud and since then they have disqualified the authorities of the electoral entities. Once Castillo took office, he was soon threatened with presidential vacancy motions for permanent moral incapacity. Thus, he chose to remove from the cabinet those who did not assure him votes in Congress every time they debated his removal.
For Revollar, the figure of vacancy due to moral incapacity is very lax. “The Ombudsman has always been opposed because any issue could be considered causal. In the crisis in which we are, with the exacerbation of the powers of the State to maintain or to overthrow, the vacancy arises as a threat, but also the closure of Congress or constitutional complaints. Today, in any given week, any official is constitutionally denounced and this reveals a precarious situation: threats come and go”, he observes. According to the defender, in this scenario of struggles, Congress is undermining public policies.
“There are sectors of the population that are polarizing around necessary reforms, such as the curriculum school and educational quality in universities. In Congress there are counter-reforms, you have a country in which everything is absolutely moved”, he affirms. The law enacted last Thursday annuls sex education in schools and allows an association of ultra-conservative parents to reject school textbooks that address gender equality, or rewrite the recent history of the period of violence in the country. between 1980 and 2000, in which the security forces committed human rights violations as part of the fight against the terrorist and Maoist group Sendero Luminoso. Revollar explains that the Ombudsman questions the norm because the responsibility for conducting educational policy rests with the Ministry of Education, in safeguarding the best interests of children and adolescents and gender equality policies.
”In such a diverse country, who is going to have the representation of parents to say what is going to be taught? Not having that public policy is going to affect the poorest because those who lead these battles have their children in a private, privileged education; but the girl who does not know how to protect her body ends up pregnant, raped at the age of ten or twelve in the native communities. Public policies are for everyone, and this has a name: it is the destruction of public policy in university education and school education”, ditch. In May, Congress annulled the Superintendence of University Education, created with the 2014 reform against universities of garage. Several incumbent parliamentarians have been owners or authorities of private universities closed due to their lack of quality and are seeking to reopen their businesses. The Executive observed the norm, but the Parliament can promulgate it by insistence.
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The Congress initiative to change 51 articles of the Constitution and create a Senate requires approval in two consecutive terms, which is why the Congressional Board wants to extend the term that has already ended and hold the first vote in the coming days. Why is the opposition in such a hurry? For Revollar, the important thing is that these processes are “very open to debate not only in parliament – but also in academia and international experience – because they are defining the future of the country with respect to key officials of autonomous organizations”, that is, the electoral entities and the Comptroller.
The defender emphasizes that the instances of the electoral system must be completely politically neutral. “There are things that cannot be done overnight. We know that a group of congressmen is asking that the legislature not be extended, and one of the reasons for the extension is to carry out these reforms because they need to vote in two legislatures. In the other they would have a new configuration of the responsibilities and the Senate”, she adds.
Revollar has been in the post on an interim basis since April, when the previous defender stepped down despite the fact that his term had ended in September. Congress is seeking to quickly elect a new incumbent close to the opposition coalition. The lawyer points out that she has found a State affected by the pandemic, but also by instability due to the more than 30 changes of ministers in Castillo’s team. From the first cabinet, only three ministers continue in the same portfolio, and in eleven months three Ministers of Education, three of Health, and five of the Interior have passed.
According to the Ombudsman, the large number of ministerial changes has had a direct impact on the drop in vaccination, on the management of social conflicts linked to mining -two large mining companies paralyzed operations for more than a month-, and on the Problems in returning to face-to-face classes”. We have found an overload in the educational system, which is why lately we have seen such tragic news about how adolescents are being mistreated in educational institutions. We are getting involved in campaigns and we are very concerned because there have been cases of bullying and sexual violence and this requires a more complex look at mental health and the response of the teachers themselves. The political crisis also seriously affected after this long stoppage (due to the pandemic) ”, she explains.
Revollar describes as another consequence of the high turnover in the Executive, the flight of professionals replaced by incompetent people and acts of corruption. “The audios that the media have released show how they practically entered to steal from sectors such as the Ministry of Transport and Communications,” he laments. The official refers to an interest manager who claims to have bribed a minister of the current government -fugitive- in exchange for a consortium winning the good fortune of the millionaire construction of a bridge. Castillo is under prosecutorial investigation for organized crime and influence peddling as a result of said case.
“Decent public management, which responds to the objectives that the country needs, the needs of the population have not been a priority of this government,” stresses the official who has worked for more than 20 years in the institution that monitors the functioning of the State . ”As a background theme, we are seeing hunger, poverty, employability, the economic reactivation that is so necessary due to the crisis. Obviously that has nothing to do with the political crisis alone, but as a consequence of the pandemic and the war (in Ukraine). There is a very great vulnerability of extremely poor pockets and others who are falling into poverty: we need a strong government to face this crisis”, she points out.
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