Which brings us to the fundamental issue beneath the legal, constitutional and political tangle in Lima: political corruption. Ending the nation’s long-standing culture of official graft would be the capstone on Peru’s halting but real economic and political development. All of Peru’s past five presidents have faced serious scandal; two have been convicted; one faces extradition from the United States; and one, Alan García, fatally shot himself rather than submit to arrest. Awful as these events were, they represent a kind of progress in that they showed that the rule of law can extend all the way to the top.
What has been missing are structural political reforms — which is exactly what Mr. Vizcarra had proposed to Congress at the moment he dissolved the body on Monday. Arguing that hesitation by lawmakers — most of them allied with the daughter of his deposed and imprisoned predecessor, Alberto Fujimori — was tantamount to a vote of no confidence in his government, Mr. Vizcarra responded with dissolution, which he said was the constitutionally authorized step. He also called for new elections early next year.
Congress rejected this action and tried without success to remove Mr. Vizcarra in favor of the vice president. The law on this matter is arcane, but suffice it to say there are arguments for both positions. That suggests the courts should be allowed to settle it, while preparations for a possible election, in which the people may have the final say, proceed.
This is the course advocated by Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, and judging from the initial public response, Peruvians are in favor of it, too. Peru’s friends in the Northern Hemisphere, the United States included, must support a peaceful solution that preserves social progress while strengthening political institutions.