Hernando de Soto, Champion of Property Rights Still Shines After Results of the Peruvian General Election

On Sunday, April 11, 2021, Peruvians took to the ballot to cast votes for the general election.  Citizens, frustrated and eager for change, actively participated in the democratic process given the corruption scandals, the collapse of the economy, the assault on land rights for indigenous communities in biodiverse regions, and the overwhelmed health care system due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peruvians cast their ballots to choose the two presidential nominations out of 18 candidates in total for the run-off election since not one of the six leading candidates garnered 50% of the vote to automatically win. On the same day, Peruvians also voted for two Vice Presidents, 130 members of the unicameral Congress, and five representatives for the Andean Parliament headquartered in Bogotá, Colombia. All these positions are five-year terms.

According to the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE), Hernando de Soto came in fourth place slightly trailing behind Rafael López Aliaga, conservative businessman and nominee of the political party Popular Renewal. The first and second-place candidates, far-left union leader Pedro Castillo of Free Peru National Political Party and the former First Lady of Peru appointed as a daughter and congresswoman charged with corruption, Keiko Fujimori of Popular Force will undergo a run-off in June to determine the presidency.

Even with the loss of the presidency, Hernando de Soto will remain an influential advocate for property and economic rights, especially during the recovery process from the COVID-19 pandemic. His demonstrated academic and professional accomplishments highlight his commitment to strengthening the economy as well as the legal and political environments in the face of unprecedented turmoil.

Born in Arequipa, Peru, Hernando de Soto, President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) founded in 1981 and the nominee of the political party Go on Country – Social Integration Party is a champion of free markets and physical property rights as a means for poverty alleviation especially for indigenous communities in the Amazonian regions.

As a political appointee and economic advisor to the former President Alberto Fujimori, Mr. de Soto, and his organization were responsible for the modernization and stability of the Peruvian economy by neoliberal policies and austerity packages following years of armed conflict and the macroeconomic crisis in the 1980s known as ‘the Lost Decade.’ In 1992, two months before the self-coup d’état attempt, Mr. de Soto resigned due to the extreme presidentialism and the corruption of democratic mechanisms.

Hernando de Soto as a champion for property rights instituted a temporary land title initiative from 1992 to 1994 under the Fujimori administration which was later extended until 2004. This initiative established access for poorer communities to integrate themselves into the formal economy and increased credit market access by the registration of households and the granting of land titles. As a result, the ILD notes 1.2 million Peruvian families were assisted in claiming land titles.

Mr. de Soto’s renowned book, Mystery of the Capital (2000), based on this land initiative, still serves as a central pillar for robust conversation and debates of the necessity for a strong legal framework of both physical property and business rights to positively influence economic growth.

Most recently, Hernando de Soto has contributed a case study The Case of Peru: The Mystery of Capital among the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon to the 2020 edition of the International Property Rights Index (IPRI).

This case study notes with over 700 tribes, indigenous groups in the Amazonian regions have disproportionally faced negative effects by the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic recession and unemployment in urban cities have caused migration into their territories leading to illegal mining of natural resources and deforestation.

Moreover, there is an urgency to promote and protect physical property rights. The Property Rights Alliance will continue to work with Hernando de Soto to publish the annual IPRI. We congratulate Mr. de Soto for the increased awareness brought to physical property rights and economic rights.


Photo Credit: Joseph Villanueva on Flickr