Both sides claimed to defend democracy against the other. Both appealed to the Peruvian military, which had traditionally played a role of ultimate arbiter, almost akin to that of a supreme court. The public, deeply polarized, divided. The army was also divided.
The themes of the 6 January committee hearings
At the critical moment, enough political and military elites showed support for Fujimori that he triumphed. They met informally, each reacting to events separately, and many appealed to different ends, such as Mr. Fujimori’s economic agenda, notions of stability, or an opportunity for their party to triumph under the new order.
Peru fell into quasi-authoritarianism, curtailing political rights and still holding elections, but on terms that favored Mr Fujimori, until he was removed from office in 2000 on corruption charges. Last year, his daughter ran for president as a right-wing populist, losing by less than 50,000 votes.
Modern Latin America has repeatedly faced such crises. Many scholars argue that this is due not so much to shared cultural traits as to a history of Cold War interference that weakened democratic norms. It also stems from American-style presidential systems and deep social polarization that paves the way for extreme political battles.
Presidential democracies, by dividing power among competing branches, create more opportunities for rival offices to clash, even to the point of usurping each other’s powers. Such systems also cloud the question of who is in charge, forcing their branches to resolve disputes informally, on the fly, and sometimes by force.
Venezuela, once the region’s oldest democracy, has endured a series of constitutional crises when President Hugo Chávez clashed with judges and other government agencies blocking his agenda. Each time, Mr Chávez, and later his successor, Nicolás Maduro, invoked legal and democratic principles to justify the weakening of those institutions, until the actions of the leaders, ostensibly to save democracy, over time had almost eroded.