Fujimori Puts the "PR" in Per# and PromPeru Leads the Way:
How the President is Projecting his
Administration's Neoliberal Policies
alan r. freitag
6 ball dr.
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Fujimori Puts the "PR" in Per# and PromPeru Leads the Way:
How the President is Projecting his Administration's Neoliberal Policies
A relatively small government agency called PromPeru is behind an aggressive,
comprehensive, corporate-style communication campaign that is channeling the
message of Peru's extraordinary President Alberto Fujimori in an effort to
recast Peru's image in the global arena. This paper examines that agency and
analyzes its techniques and output within the context of the political and
economic forces that underpin Fujimori's objectives. The agency is employing
classic PR techniques to attract international investment on a grand scale; its
efforts may signal a major step forward in Latin America's PR evolution.
Fujimori Puts the "PR" in Peru
Fujimori Puts the "PR" in Per# and PromPeru Leads the Way: How the President is
Projecting his Administration's Neoliberal Policies
In the center of one of the world's most prestigious English-language news
magazines, a 22-page advertising supplement touts a product through the use of
splashy graphics, high-quality photographs, tables demonstrating the
quantitative attributes of the product, "exclusive" interviews with the "CEO"
and other top "executives," a litany of the products successes, testimonies of
"satisfied customers," and page after page of high-impact prose aimed at
capturing the reader's attention and imagination, motivating him or her, it is
obviously hoped, to "invest" in this exciting product. The expensive and
extraordinary ad is a case study in marketing and public relations. It is image
making writ large. Even on a much smaller scale it is a technique reserved for
only the most exceptional of products or services -- the major redesign of a an
automobile, the launching of a new airline, the birth of a new media
This product, though, is very different from those things. It is a country.
It is Per#. The advertising supplement is an essay with pictures, charts and
tables redefining the nation which had been associated for 12 years with
violence, fear, death squads, an economy irretrievably lost, four-digit
inflation, a place nobody went and from which everyone who could, left. The ad
supplement epitomizes a new message emitting from Per# since 1990. It's a
message of welcome to foreign investment, to tourists, to professionals. It's
also a statement of stability, promise and potential, putting the world on
notice that Per# intends to become an economic force to be reckoned with, a
player in the post-Cold War global dynamics that are transforming Latin America
into a major producing and consuming engine.
The purpose of this paper, though, is not to address Per#'s economic
renaissance, but rather just one easily overlooked aspect of the program's
design -- a relatively small government agency called Promperu. It was Promperu
that contributed to the design and placement of the 22-page supplement in Far
Eastern Economic Review. Further, it is Promperu that is behind an aggressive,
comprehensive corporate-style communication strategy that is channeling the
message of Per#'s flamboyant President Alberto Fujimori through a host of
conduits in an effort to recast Per#'s image as part of a larger plan to
restructure completely the nation's economy and politics.
In order to examine Promperu with any degree of thoroughness, some
underpinning is necessary. First, an analysis of the message itself is needed.
What are the tenets of neoliberalism that define the new Per#? Second, simply,
what is Promperu? Third, and most important, how do Promperu and its products
and programs reflect and project, in text and sub-text, the policies of the
Fujimori administration? The first task requires some brief, contextual
scene-setting in order to appreciate the scope of Fujimori's reforms.
OFF-THE-SHELF NEOLIBERALISM AND FUJIMORI'S MODIFIED DESIGN
The "neo" in neoliberalism is probably at risk of losing its credibility
since an argument can be made that the political and economic philosophy bearing
this sobriquet first emerged with Chile's authoritarian dictator, Augusto
Pinochet, and his "Chicago Boys" in the years following the U.S.-backed coup
that brought Pinochet to power in 1973 (Cockcroft, 1996, pp. 554-561).
Pinochet's "shock" programs were along the lines of the International Monetary
Fund's recommendations aimed at restoring economic solvency, regardless of the
social costs. They included wage freezes, consumer product price rises,
currency devaluations, lower tariffs on imports, privatization of
government-owned enterprises, and reduced government spending, all aimed at
getting control of the economy, reducing inflation and harnessing free market
forces. Despite Pinochet's fall from power in 1989, the appeal of
neoliberalism spread quickly throughout Central and South America as it was
adopted by a host of nations smitten by the lure of an expanding free market in
a post-Cold War world, and by the hope that infusions of wealth from foreign
investments would permeate their populations, raising living standards across
The reality, at least in the near term, has been mixed. Some point to
Chile, Argentina and Bolivia (Conaghan and Malloy, 1994), and even Mexico as
evidence that neoliberal economic measures are working. Others cite the social
costs that have accompanied neoliberal austerity measures wherever they have
been employed (Cockcroft, 1996). Those social costs include escalating
unemployment, reduced social spending by the government with a resulting spiral
of poverty for the most disenfranchised of the population, and a widening chasm
between the few, powerful elite who benefit from infusions of foreign
investments and the vast majority who are too far down the economic chain to
receive those benefits.
But it has been more than 20 years since Pinochet first imposed
neoliberalism, and the concept has undergone some changes in the interim, at the
very least around the margins. Too, the tenets of neoliberalism have perhaps
been found guilty by virtue of their association with coincidental phenomena
such as corruption and feckless leadership as in Brazil, and with cosmetic
democracies as in Argentina and Chile (Mainwaring, 1995).
Per#, on the other hand, has been redefining neoliberalism to suit its own
peculiar historical, political and economic situation -- a situation which has
resulted in internal policy changes related to neoliberalism as the environment
has developed and unfolded in the past decade. An in-depth review of Per#'s
history is not necessary, but a brief overview will help set the stage for
Fujimori's dramatic entrance in 1990.
Roughly the size of Alaska, Per# includes three basic regions -- rain forest
in the east (about 60 percent of the nation's land area, but home to just 11
percent of the population, mostly Indians), some of the world's driest desert
along the Pacific coastline from Ecuador to Chile, and the "sierra" region
comprised of Andean peaks and fertile valleys. About half the population is
Indian (most of whom are monolingual in languages and dialects other than
Spanish), and the remainder a combination of European, mestizo, Asian, black and
mulatto. The result is "an immense geographical, linguistic, and cultural gap"
that "divides Per# in half (Cockcroft, 1996, p.456)."
The colonial experience in Per# was dramatically different from that of the
United States. Early in the 16th century, Francisco Pizarro stormed brutally
into what is now Per#, slaughtering or enslaving the indigenous Incas. Lima
became "the center of the South American branch of the Spanish Empire and the
seat of the Inquisition." The social structure was paternalistic and ruthlessly
oppressive. Into the 19th century, Europe withdrew Per#'s resources, primarily
silver, establishing a dual society of elite whites and oppressed Indian
peasants (Cockcroft, 1996, pp.459-461). The dominant feudal system resulted in
conditions under which a disproportionate share of the wealth and power was
concentrated at the top of the hierarchy while the vast majority was relegated
to poverty and dependency (Sharpe and Simoes, 1996, p.279).
Independence from Spain arrived violently in 1824 with the aid of the armies
of Argentina's Jos de San Mart!n and Venezuela's Sim"n Bol!var. There followed
40 years of a relatively chaotic Republic marked by 34 presidents. The economy
shifted from silver to fertilizer and the focus from Spain to Great Britain, but
societal dualism remained a hallmark.
In the final quarter of the 19th century, U.S. investment (and influence)
surpassed that of Great Britain. The "aristocratic republic" from 1895 to 1919
included elections limited to a "small male electorate based on literacy and
property qualifications (Cockcroft, 1996, p.161)." By now the pattern was well
established of a dependent economy, lacking production capability for internal
consumption -- a society in which only the elites could afford the high cost of
imported manufactured goods, and one characterized by company stores, child
labor and foreign ownership.
It's not surprising, then, that labor unrest began to emerge in the early
20th century, exacerbated by the Great Depression in the 1930s. Bloody
confrontations between the army and labor movements ensued. The dictatorship of
General Manuel Odr!a (1948-1956) saw increasing U.S. influence, severe
repression of labor movements, and the dominance of an export-oriented
Elections in 1956 and subsequently saw some modest reforms, but social
unrest continued to grow, occasionally turning violent. Lesser government
appointments were routinely handed out to family members and friends in an
environment which accepted patronage as a privilege of office (Sharpe and
Simoes, 1996, pp.279-280).
A brief ruling military junta in 1963 returned authoritarian measures, but
the election of President Bela#nde (1963-68, first term) saw the reinstatement
of some reforms.
The cycle of military rule continued with a coup in 1968, but this time the
thrust was nationalistic, even to some extent reformist and populist. Breaking
with the past, this military government, under General Juan Velasco Alvarado,
reflected more middle class values and saw themselves as reformers who could
lead Per# to its full potential. For the first time, the military leaders
recognized the need to influence public support through the media (Alisky, 1981,
p.73) -- an extremely important development in the context of this paper.
In 1975, a deepening economic crisis led to strikes, violence and repression
as conservative elements of the ruling junta came to the fore. Velasco was
forced aside and replaced by General Francisco Morales Berm#dez who reversed
earlier reforms and came down hard on labor. Some industries were privatized,
but most remained under government ownership. Morales adhered to IMF economic
austerity measures with commensurate rises in consumer costs and escalating
inflation leading to more social unrest (Cockcroft, 1996, pp.474-475).
When Bela#nde recaptured the presidency in the 1980 elections he attempted
to implement economic policies similar to those of Pinochet's "Chicago Boys" --
fundamentally neoliberal. Three basic problems precluded the realization of any
success, however. First, corruption became the stock and trade of the Bela#nde
regime. Second, the global recession of 1982 drove down Per#'s export income.
Third, drug trafficking became a very serious drain on Per#'s budget through the
loss of legitimate revenue. Further, the emergence of Sendero Luminoso, a group
of Maoist fanatics began to exact enormous costs in terms of dramatically
reduced agricultural production in a countryside gripped by fear and through
government costs incurred fighting the insurgency (Cockcroft, 1996, pp.476-477).
In addition, Bela#nde failed to recognize that neoliberalism required more than
merely establishing programs -- the programs needed to be supported with
proactive ideological campaigns if they were to be embraced by political
parties, by business interests, and by the population (Conaghan and Malloy,
President Alan Garc!a P rez (1985-1990) stepped back from neoliberalism with
relatively arbitrary policies including nationalization of banking. He enjoyed
initial success, manifested by a 20 percent growth rate during his first two
years, but the economy quickly faltered, and rampant inflation, coupled with his
own corruption and the continuing battle with Sendero Luminoso, led his party
into deep disfavor by the 1990 elections (Cockcroft, 1996, pp.478-479; Conaghan
and Malloy, 1994, pp. 226-227).
All this prologue is necessary to distinguish the Peruvian experience from
that of the United States, especially as it relates to the development of what
has come to be called public relations. Molding of public opinion --
mobilization of public support -- through the use of even the most rudimentary
of communication strategies, simply does not have consistent precedent in Per#
or, for that matter, in Latin America generally. Culturally and historically,
persuasion has been characterized and defined by personal interaction as opposed
to the employment of U.S.-style, mass communication techniques (Culbertson,
But in 1990 the stage was set for enormous change. Inflation stood at an
unbelievable 7,650 percent. Prolonged depression and high foreign debt were
conspiring to exacerbate the lingering poverty that permeated the historically
dual society. Tax revenues had dropped from 15 percent of gross domestic
product to 3 percent under President Garc!a. Public disorder was dangerously
explosive. From 1980 to 1988, 12,870 Peruvians had died in political violence
and the number would climb to 26,000 by 1993 (Cockcroft, 1996, pp.478-479;
Conaghan and Malloy, 1994, pp. 226-227; Graham, 1994, p.93; Sheahan, 1994,
FUJIMORI POSITIONS HIMSELF AS THE CANDIDATE OF CHANGE
The electorate was faced with a difficult dilemma. To remain fused to
traditional forms of government and policies would mean a continuation of the
worsening economic spiral and the attendant risks of corruption and civil
unrest. On the other hand, radical changes aimed at improving long-term
economic conditions would require a considerable leap of faith along with the
likelihood of considerable personal sacrifice, including the sacrifice of
personal freedoms (Bishop, 1973).
A relative unknown, Alberto Keinya Fujimori, 52 and the U.S.-educated son of
Japanese immigrants, seized upon the economic crisis facing Per# and upon the
feckless leadership of the established policies. Moreover, his newly created
"Cambio" (change) party ran in opposition to the neoliberal programs President
Garc!a had attempted, with little success, to implement. Fujimori's populist
appeals captured voters' imaginations and he was swept into the statehouse
(Roberts, 1995, pp.93-94).
Within weeks of his inauguration, though, Fujimori imposed a sweeping
economic stabilization program incorporating the very neoliberal tenets he
decried during his campaign. First, price subsidies and social spending were
drastically cut along with public sector employment. He increased interest
rates and taxes on government services. He deregulated financial and labor
markets, reduced tariffs and began the privatization of publicly owned
enterprises. He took steps to reduce tax evasion and began efforts to tap
international financial assistance (Roberts, 1995, p.96; Sheahan, 1994, p.912).
While the economy improved under Fujimori's neoliberal policies, evidenced
especially by the drop in inflation from 40 percent per month to 1-2 percent per
month, social costs included sharp increases in unemployment and poverty.
Nevertheless his peculiar mix of populism and neoliberalism propelled his
administration to unprecedented popular support, permitting him to launch a
"self coup" (autogolpe) in April 1992 which suspended the Constitution,
dissolved the Congress and all regional governments, and purged most of the
judiciary. While the coup enjoyed enormous popular support, Fujimori also had
cultivated favorable relations with key components of the military which backed
the coup as well (Roberts, 1995, p.98).
In addition, the coup and the resulting Constitution which voters narrowly
approved in 1993 (Cockcroft, 1996, p.482) permitted Fujimori to be re-elected to
the presidency in 1995. In the interim, however, he fell back on more
traditional populist techniques such as ensuring he was present (with attendant
media coverage) for dedications of new schools and other community improvement
projects, especially those in poorer sectors of the country. Those projects,
and other substantial increases in social spending in recent years would not
have been possible without the successes of his neoliberal programs, primarily
privatization, but also crackdowns on tax evaders (Roberts, 1995, p.102).
President Fujimori has broken new ground in his unique blend of
neoliberalism and populism, made all the more effective by his skillful
employment of classic public relations techniques. As a result, he enjoys
continued popularity at home and admiration abroad. A looming question,
however, pertains to the sustainability of the programs which support his
popularity -- those social programs implemented in the past three years such as
vast housing construction programs, school construction, health care and
sanitation initiatives, transportation efforts, and even promotion of small
businesses. The cash which funds these programs is finite, based heavily on
privatization efforts. What happens when that money runs out? Clearly, the
task is to build a sustainable agricultural, manufacturing, service and small
business infrastructure that will carry the burden through generated revenues
once privatization income is drained.
While some degree of that infrastructure may come through internal
investment, the bulk will have to come from foreign sources. The challenge is
to attract that outside investment. Fujimori has demonstrated his ability to
build public consensus through skillful communication techniques which stressed
the benefits of his policies while enlisting public patience with the associated
downsides. What remains to be seen is his degree of success in conveying a
global image of economic stability and confidence for a nation whose extant
image is characterized more by association with hyperinflation, periodic
military dictatorships (with attendant "expropriation" of businesses), and with
violent guerrilla movements.
A COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGN FRAMEWORK
While there had been some past efforts at mobilizing public support through
mass communication, such as during the military dictatorship of the late 1960s
and early 1970s, there was no precedent for the scale of the campaign that would
be necessary to achieve Fujimori's lofty goals. Perhaps one could look for an
example to the populism of Juan and Eva Per"n in Argentina during the late 1940s
and early 1950s when they made especially effective use of radio. Even today,
Argentina's President Carlos Sa#l Menem has become something of a "media hound"
(Sarlo, 1994). But in both those cases the audience was internal and the aims
cosmetic. Fujimori faced a far more challenging task -- a global audience and a
substantive, enduring message. That brings us to Promperu.
Assuming the president understood the mechanics of what was needed in terms
of a comprehensive communication campaign, the simplest route would have been to
retain the services of one of the giant U.S. public relations firms accustomed
to designing and implementing projects of this scale. The problem then would
have been one of subtext. Why would potential foreign investors accept a
message of confidence in the Peruvian economy when the president himself did
not exhibit confidence enough to entrust his own people with the task of
conveying that message? To his credit, Fujimori opted instead to "invent" a
government agency to carry that message -- Promperu.
Other nations have agencies which project and shape their own national
image. Britain's BBC World Service brings British culture and character
throughout the globe. The Voice of America puts a U.S. "spin" on events for a
world audience. Most countries operate national tourist and/or information
bureaus. Still, Promperu is unique. It incorporates the latest technologies and
proven public relations techniques to project a positive image of Per# in an
effort to instill confidence in potential investors, tourists and business
interests. It is pro-active, serious but lively, polished, and vibrant.
Here's what they say of themselves:
Welcome to the Worldwide Web of the commission for the promotion of Per#
(Promperu). It is a pleasure for us at Promperu, to open this window of
instant communications and be part of the Internet virtual community.
Promperu is the government agency in charge of fostering the image of
Per# abroad. We provide information about investment opportunities,
potential exports, tourist attractions, and our ancestral culture.
Through a variety of publications, videos, CD ROM, missions abroad and
special events, Promperu disseminates the wealth of a centuries-old country
reborn as a modern nation open to the world. Today, Per# shows rapid growth
combined with solid business foundations. We hope that you enjoy your
virtual visit to Per# (Web site:welcome).
Promperu...is the state entity that, in coordination with the private
sector, fulfills the task of making Per#'s new image known abroad.
Through its publications, Promperu provides the international community
and foreign investors with valuable information about Per#, the vast
opportunities it offers, and the regulations applicable to the different
We invite you to discover Per#'s new image through our publications and
videos (Web site:catalog).
The somewhat traditional style permeates dozens of well-designed and
information-filled Web pages which Promperu maintains. The "Welcome" page
features a photo of the Promperu staff -- a group of just 20 people, mostly
young, and looking very much like the eager, competent executives of any
thriving, forward-looking corporation. Their leader is Dr. Beatriz Boza, an
energetic woman constantly alert for additional opportunities to convey her
Promperu, then, is essentially a public relations agency with one client.
Its task is to recraft the image of Per#, conveying a climate of peace, safety
and stability making it attractive to foreign investors and to tourists. In
subtext, it is to tout the successes of President Fujimori's brand of
neoliberalism. That is the thrust of the remainder of this paper -- to assess
the degree to which Promperu's products and activities support the president's
THE PROMPERU COLLECTION
Promperu's products include printed materials, videos, and a very
sophisticated battery of Worldwide Web pages. Because of their immediate
availability to potential users around the world, the Web pages offer perhaps
the most valuable insight into the agency's potential impact. A review of their
variety and content will be useful.
Following the style of many Web "home" pages, the initial screen contains
merely a simple "welcome" design and a menu of optional topics to pursue,
depending upon the Web user's preferences and interests (Web site:index). This
home page also offers the user the option of viewing pages in English or
Spanish. Menu path options permit pursuit of further pages related to the
following topics: business; figures; legal; tourism; current issues; women; and
tourism. Other "buttons" will take the user to something called "El Dorado
Magazine," "Perunet al dia," a "Catalogue," and "The Peace Offering Ritual."
Since this paper is most interested in political policies, especially those
related to investment, a look at the "business" pages is the most obvious place
Here again, the first business page offers additional menu choices:
investing in success; investing opportunities in manufacturing; forestry
industry; investment opportunities in mining; and investing in Per# (Web
site:business). Space does not permit an in-depth analysis of every Web page;
rather an examination of key pages will illustrate main points.
"Investing in success" provides an overall view of the investment climate in
Per#, addressing economic conditions, legal framework, privatization, and a
cursory assessment of particular industries such as mining, agriculture,
manufacturing, fishing and tourism. The page appears to be aimed at planting the
seed of consideration in the mind of a potential investor without burdening him
or her, at this early stage, with ponderous facts and figures. The page is
replete with references to traditional neoliberal hallmarks, stressing Per#'s
attractiveness to "foreign and domestic investors," "freely determined prices,"
"elimination of all barriers on international trade," and "freedom of remittance
of capital and royalties to their country of origin." The page touts Per#'s
"impressive turnaround," "stable legal framework," and refers to a "consolidated
democracy" -- an oblique allusion to Fujimori's autogolpe.
Regarding the stable economy, the page highlights the dramatic drop in
inflation to 15.4 percent in 1994 and an anticipated rate of 10 percent for
1995. Also cited are an annual GDP growth rate of 12.9 percent for 1994 and a
"significant increase in tax revenues" -- a result at least in part, we may
assume, from Fujimori's policy of cracking down on tax delinquency as part of
his neoliberal program. These statistics, however, reveal a problem with this
and other pages. Several entries are clearly out of date and likely reflect the
inability of Promperu's small and heavily tasked staff to maintain the pages'
currency. A page viewed by a potential investor in late 1996 should not include
economic figures "anticipated" for 1995.
The brief description of the new legal framework clearly reflects neoliberal
philosophy. Per#, the page says, treats foreign and domestic investors equally
in terms of rights and obligations, and promises stable tax laws. It boasts
that there are no longer any taxes on exports and just a 15 percent tax on 97
percent of all imports. Also stressed is the deregulation of banking and
Perhaps the most prominent element of neoliberal economics is the
privatization of industry. Though other pages provide greater depth, this
"investing in success" page offers an excellent summary. It allows that most
privatization still lies ahead, but says now is the time to become involved,
citing anticipated privatization of government-owned companies in oil and
mining, energy generation, agribusiness and fishing. The difficulty of
maintaining currency of the pages is apparent here as well, though the page
accurately represents the spirit of Fujimori's privatization efforts.
For example, by the date this page was viewed, firms already privatized
included major enterprises engaged in mining, petroleum distribution, salt,
cement, banking, telecommunications, and power generation. Even national
airline Aeroper# had been sold. The government had realized U.S.$2.8 billion in
privatization proceeds in 1994. In spring of 1996 the government announced an
accelerated three-year "divestment blitz" expected to generate an additional
However, while Fujimori may be enjoying public relations success abroad as a
result of this privatization effort, his public at home is less enthusiastic.
The oilworkers' union has mounted protests against the sale of a major refinery
-- obviously fearing that private (stockholder) ownership will lead to
streamlining and resultant loss of jobs. The workers, in fact, are pressing to
have the issue put to a referendum, which the administration opposes. Fujimori
has conceded that a 40 percent stake in the refinery will remain in government
hands (Region begins new privatization drive, 1996).
A major sale conducted a few months ago was that of Telef"nica del Per#.
Here, too, Fujimori encountered public relations challenges. While the sale of
stock on the New York Stock Exchange generated a greater international
(especially U.S.) response than anticipated, raising U.S.$1.1 billion, the
oversubscription compelled the government to halve the number of shares
available to domestic investors. However, Fujimori had once again demonstrated
his public relations savvy by appointing earlier a defensor del pueblo --
literally a "defender of the people," but essentially an ombudsman representing
the public's interest before the administration. This ombudsman seized upon the
Telef"nica issue and demanded more transparency in any future
privatization-related stock offers. Fujimori sensibly conducted some damage
repair by announcing the domestic sale of a portion of the Telef"nica stock
still held by the government (Peruvians disappointed, 1996).
Returning to the Promperu Web pages, delving deeper into business page
options we find more detailed descriptions of specific neoliberal economic
measures. For example, the page (actually 18 pages when printed) concerning
"investment opportunities in manufacturing" provides extensive information on
legislative and institutional frameworks for the serious investor. It
describes, for instance, the National Commission of Foreign Investment and
Technology (CONITE) which is empowered to contract with foreign investors,
granting assurances of guaranteed income tax rates, currency conversion
procedures, and capital and profit repatriation. The page stresses that
exchange rates are driven strictly by "free supply and demand" -- a pillar of
neoliberalism. Investors are even given guarantees against "non-commercial
risks," the page maintains. The page also alludes to the "deregulation of
labor" -- likely a cause for concern among miners and other workers who fear
they may be being disarticulated by Fujimori's pro-business policies (Web site:
Again and again, Web pages like the one covering manufacturing, and others
covering forestry, agriculture, mining and industry, are peppered with
references to "opening up of trade," "deregulation," "simplified and lower
tariffs," "open and free trade," and "competitiveness." The pages express
support for the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade
(GATT) and embrace other global economic initiatives aimed at the free market
paradigm such as the European Union's Generalized Preferences System as well as
those of Japan and the United States. The pages cite the value of the Latin
American Integration Association (ALADI) and its effort toward a common Latin
American market. They also cite tariff-preference trade agreements with
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay. In short, the
business pages are at pains to convey the Fujimori-designed image of Per# as a
nation reborn in the neoliberal image. Extensive details appear throughout the
various Promperu pages, covering, for example, specific export products and
international corporations which have already invested in Per#. The reader with
access to the Worldwide Web may study these pages easily and at leisure.
However, several other page groups warrant brief descriptions here.
Associated with the page group concerning investment opportunities is a page
entitled, "Per# al dia" ("Peru up-to-date"). The page is kept very current and
includes brief business news items in wire service style (Web site: al dia).
The page cited, for example, contains stories about a Peruvian mining company's
accord with Korean automotive manufacturer Hyundai, the investment of U.S.$16
million in a petroleum processing plant, the establishment of a branch office of
Morgan Guaranty Trust in Per#, even the decision of a Greek tourism firm to
construct a U.S.$3.5 million casino. The effect of the news-style pages is to
lend credibility to Promperu's messages of stability and confidence, and to
project excitement and immediacy, with the subtle effect of suggesting to the
potential investor that the train is leaving the station and it would be unwise
to be left standing on the platform.
Still another Web page group within the Promperu stable is a series called,
"Per# in Figures (Web site:tables)." Here the browser can access more than 150
separate tables and charts in categories matching those addressed in the
business page group -- agriculture, fishing, mining, natural resources,
manufacturing, tourism, etc. There is a host of additional statistical graphics
including traditional subjects like gross domestic product, farm production,
mining products, crude oil reserves, manufacturing capacity, tourism revenues,
export and import products, interest rates, employment, and air cargo traffic.
Additionally, there are charts with intriguing titles like "Lakes and lagoons by
basin and capacity," "Consumption of drinking water in metropolitan Lima," and
"Biomass of major hydrobiological resources."
Tables and charts appear to provide in excruciating detail every bit of
statistical information a potential investor might find useful in assessing
Per#'s economic condition. The investor may find here, for example, a profile
of the educational system including enrollment, number of teachers, and size of
libraries. He or she may also learn which universities offer which degrees, or
how many children under one year receive vaccinations. The number and type of
private housing is graphically described along with the ownership and types of
water vessels in operation. While the figures and trends portrayed through
these 150-plus graphics are significant, more important is the secondary message
that all of Per# is open to inspection to the potential investor. It appears
President Fujimori, through Promperu, is going to great lengths to convey an
image of utter transparency in an effort to overcome many years of concealment
bordering on the sinister.
Yet another block of Promperu pages provides a detailed agenda of major
political, cultural, educational and other events involving Per# (Web
site:Agenda). These pages, too, are updated regularly and seem to have the
purpose of elevating the nation's status through descriptions, in
straight-forward, diary-style entries, of key events. Sample entries for
September and October 1996 include the following:
Participation in an agribusiness tour in Los Angeles, Calif.
Observation of "Per# Week" at the Organization of American States in
A presidential summit for the Rio Group in Bolivia
Participation in a forum on social development in Chile
Operation of a display on commercial Lima for the Taipei International
Operation of a display on Per# for the Korean World Travel Fair
Participation in the International Market for Crafts and
Light-to-Medium Industry in Italy
Participation in the meeting of the American Society of Travel Agencies
Participation in the meeting of ministers of defense of the Americas in
Conduct of a seminar on Latin American economic opportunities held in
President Fujimori's visit to Bonn, Germany
Participation in a meeting on rural agricultural financing held in
Again the message here is more one of subtext. The point is clearly that
Per# is taking a pro-active approach to integration with the global economy and
culture. The events reflect a broad scope of activities and a geographical
spectrum encompassing the rest of Latin America, Europe, Asia and North America,
though Africa and Eastern Europe fail to make an appearance in this instance.
An additional category of Promperu pages to be discussed here is the group
including lengthier and often more scholarly articles concerning Per#'s
recrafted image. This group features research-length essays on a variety of
subjects directly related to those addressed in the previously discussed
business and investment pages. Again, versions are available both in English
and Spanish. The essays, like chapters in a college text, frequently conclude
with recommendations for further reading. The contents page lists more than 50
in-depth articles by experts in each field. Categories include trade and
investment, banking and finance, market regulation, labor law, taxation,
intellectual property and others (Web site:contents).
Two articles particularly merit brief discussion as prime examples of
Promperu's embodiment of Fujimori's neoliberal policies. The first is entitled,
"Reforms for a better future," by de Zevallos (1996). The author opens by
citing a study by a Washington, D.C.-based agency that found Per# to have had an
economic environment less conducive to foreign investment during the 1980s than
even the (former) Soviet Union. Since 1990, the author points out, however,
Per# has attained status as one of the most "market-friendly" nations in the
world. De Zevallos points to Fujimori-sponsored legislation such as the 1991
Promotion of Foreign Investment Law that guaranteed principles of
nondiscrimination against foreign capital and of transfer abroad of profits,
lifted restrictions on foreign investment, and guaranteed tax stability for
foreign investors. The author also describes bilateral investment treaties Per#
has established with Thailand, South Korea, Bolivia, the United Kingdom, France,
Italy, the Czech Republic, Romania, Paraguay, Colombia, Sweden and Switzerland.
A key segment of de Zevallos' essay concerns the neoliberal linchpin --
privatization. Here again, the author cites legislation supporting
privatization and provides a litany of successful privatization efforts since
Fujimori initiated his program. He stresses the new tax structure and reform of
the stock market, both of which favor foreign investment and stimulate savings.
The labor market, too, is characterized as being "flexible" and conducive to
business. The author cites the popularity of Fujimori's actions in dissolving
the Congress in 1991 and touts the holding of elections for a new Congress in
1992 along with a referendum approving the new Constitution in 1993.
The second article, "Private investment regime," by Mu$iz, is similar to
that of de Zevallos in its positive, upbeat tone, but focuses more on price
structures, property rights, and insurance as they pertain to foreign investment
(1996). The author states simply: "Prices are established by supply and demand.
The only prices that may be fixed by the government are fees for public
utilities." The only government control on capital, Mu$iz tells the reader, is
that "capital contributions must be channeled through the Peruvian banking
system;" that system, too, has been largely privatized. The author also
describes in detail the newly established duty-free zones for tourism,
commercial, and development interests.
BEYOND THE WEB
While Promperu's Web site articles, photos, features, statistics and other
elements offer a refreshing glimpse into a culture, a country, and its emerging
image (there is even an audio page which permits the browser to listen to an
excerpt of authentic, Peruvian flute music), and are representative of the
messages the agency is projecting on behalf of Fujimori, the effort is certainly
not limited to this new medium. We've already discussed magazine inserts and
the schedule of promotional activities around the globe, but Promperu has a more
extensive media mix as well.
Dozens of slick brochures, pamphlets and information kits tout everything
from the tenets of neoliberalism already discussed to Pisco, the traditional
grape brandy -- "a miracle born from the fertile Peruvian desert and the mixture
of Indians and Spaniards."
One of the brochures reveals another side to the agency. It's a 60-page,
high-quality, full-color magazine of more than a hundred photos of pre-Hispanic
Peruvian art. The publication includes a forward/dedication by President
Fujimori, and was prepared for a Promperu-coordinated display of the depicted
artifacts in Miami's central library in 1994 and 1995. While the brochure and
the event promote understanding and appreciation for Peruvian culture and
history, Fujimori, again in a classic application of public relations
techniques, relates the event to his neoliberal program in the brochure's
By presenting this exhibition in Miami we also wish to give the visitor
the opportunity to take a closer look at the values that nurture Peruvian
identity in the hemispheric context. As Per# becomes a global player it
does so as a bearer of modernity in change that is deeply rooted in Peruvian
history and culture.
Other publications are less subtle in their message packaging, with titles
Freedom to invest in a country of opportunities
Per#: new horizons
Investing in Per#: guide to business law
Opportunities to invest in export industries
Opportunities for investment in industrial timber
Opportunities for investment in manufacturing (others cover mining,
Other publications, and parts of many, also engage in a sound public
relations tactic -- being up front about negative information. The border
dispute with Ecuador is a good example. A separate publication is entitled
simply, "The Peruvian position regarding recent events on the border with
Ecuador." The essay is obviously slanted toward the Peruvian view, but
nevertheless offers considerable historical background on the issue and
articulates clearly Per#'s position; this public airing is not a tack that would
likely have been taken during the previous decades of isolation.
Similarly, the issue of endemic poverty and maldistribution of wealth is
addressed, if briefly, in a number of Promperu products. Attention is usually
drawn to statistics which show that the percentage of the population living
below the poverty level fell from 54 percent in 1990 to 49.6 percent in 1994.
They also point out that annual per capita social spending has climbed from
roughly U.S.$18 in 1990 to more than U.S.$80 in 1994, and that social spending
constituted 27 percent of the total budget in 1994, but had climbed to 35
percent by 1995. And in a break from standard neoliberal philosophy, Promperu
products acknowledge that publicly-funded social programs must be improved and
that increased participation at the grassroots, community level must be
encouraged. They often add that more public support is needed for basic needs
like health, nutrition and education. They boldly predict, in fact, that social
spending will soon represent 50 percent of public expenditures (The Peruvian
economic program, 1995).
One final Promperu product worth an examination is a video, one of several
the agency produces and distributes. Entitled "Per#: a country moving to the
future," it neatly encapsulates in roughly 10 minutes virtually all the elements
of the neoliberal message in visuals and narration. The images include the
bustle of a modern city, the vibrant stock exchange, native craftsmen weaving,
the muscles and sweat of hard-working factory laborers, drilling operations,
scenes of modern agriculture, medical laboratory research, even high fashion.
The rapid sequences and up-tempo music convey a subtext of a nation on the move.
The deep baritone narrator stresses the size of the Latin American market to
which Per# is the gateway. He talks of a "solid democracy with a government
strongly supported by the people, with international credibility...successfully
controlling the problems which affected the country in the last years," going so
far as to cite "the economic crisis, terrorist violence, and the isolation from
the international trust." The reassuring words are heard over a visual first of
people marching in amiable solidarity, then of a Wall Street Journal headline
boasting, "Per#'s progress: Fujimori has tamed terrorism and inflation." As the
camera tilts down the headline, the image quickly fades before the reader can
read the rest: "but means still rankle."
Quick flashes of colorful shots show the reader how major companies are
already investing; large neon signs for Goodyear, Sony, Toyota, Hyundai,
Samsung, Pizza Hut and others bear witness to an apparent flood of major
investors. The narrator reminds the viewer that there are no more restrictions
on profits or foreign investment. We see skilled and semi-skilled laborers as
the voice stresses "competition and private initiative."
One of the criticisms of neoliberalism, and generally of Latin America's
approach to agriculture for the past 150 years, has been the emphasis on export
crops at the expense of staple food crops, resulting in increased revenue for
wealthy landowners, but insufficient basic food for the poor majority (Booth and
Walker, 1993, p.4). Unfortunately, the video does little to contradict the
charge. Scenes of abundant farm products include primarily cotton, grapes and
tobacco and stress the "strong demand in the world market" for such products.
There are other elements of the video which lay the administration open to
additional common criticisms of neoliberal economics. The narrator boasts that
"the majority of the coast is still to be exploited" (emphasis added). Using a
word like that is a hot button for those who accuse neoliberalism of neglecting
ecological concerns. Similarly, images of mining operations depict a scarred
landscape in the otherwise stunningly picturesque Andes as the narrator adds
that there are opportunities for conversion of rain forest to production of
resins, dyes, spices, rubber, and medicine, though he stresses they are
"maintaining the ecological balance of the Amazon."
Even public infrastructure projects are tied to commerce and investment,
emphasizing road construction, and sea- and airport facility expansion.
Overall, the video is positive, fresh and flashy. It acknowledges briefly
a troubled past, but brushes it aside as it seeks to instill confidence and
exuberance for a nation on its way to a bright, shining future. It is
quintessential Promperu, and quintessential Fujimori.
THE ROLE OF THE "CEO"
All this discussion of Promperu's efforts is not to say that President
Fujimori has delegated to the agency complete responsibility for a national
public relations campaign, eschewing a personal role. Far from it. The
President has been a highly visible player in this drama, taking an extremely
active role in projecting and shaping the national image while cultivating his
own. Though perhaps somewhat flamboyant, he is certainly not the eccentric
character typified by his neighboring president, Abdala Bucaram, who is known as
"El Loco" and who is described as a "shameless self-promoter." Among Bucaram's
peculiar brand of showmanship are a compact disc he recorded entitled "A crazy
man in love" and rock concerts in which he sings songs from the disc (El Loco,
1996). That is not Fujimori's style.
Fujimori is more like the consummate, high-profile chief executive officer
-- the Lee Iacocca of Latin America. His public appearances and meetings,
especially with foreign dignitaries, are no-nonsense, all business affairs. He
comes across as a man who does not suffer fools gladly. Telling are his
comments regarding his dissolution of the Congress: "The democracy of political
parties is over. We have a democracy that brings benefits to people, in
contrast to the other democracy, which was party-ocracy" (Serrill, 1995).
His own people call him "El Chino", and his foreign visits with attendant
media coverage have garnered considerable achievements. During his 1994 visit
to China, Fujimori obtained more than U.S.$100 million in soft loans with which
to purchase Chinese products such as tractors, construction equipment and
civilian aircraft (Kaye, 1994). He personally visited New York and hosted a
lunch for 300 institutional investors in May 1996, promoting the sale of
Telef"nica shares; the successful results were described earlier (Fujimori,
The president has been surprisingly, and effectively, open regarding his
negotiations with foreign investors. By releasing weeks in advance a letter of
intent concerning his endorsement of IMF-prescribed economic targets, Fujimori
secured a U.S.$2.7 billion natural gas contract with the Shell-Mobil consortium
-- Per#'s biggest foreign contract yet. As a result of this and other
successes, the important Swiss Bank Corporation generated a glowing report on
Per#'s economic prospects (Fujimori, 1996). The contribution of adroit public
relations techniques to Per#'s and Fujimori's string of economic successes
cannot be overstated. Those techniques have included openness, coordinated
communication efforts, and responsiveness to feedback and program evaluation.
There are, recall, the common charges leveled against Latin American
neoliberalism that the economic reforms come at tremendous social costs
including growing unemployment, a widening gap between the few elite and the
poor majority, drastic reductions in government-supported social programs, and
environmental sacrifice (Walker, 1996). Fujimori seems to be aware of that and
appears to be trying to dispel such charges, though it's too early to gauge
results fully. For example, promising to spend more than U.S.$400 million on
the poorest sectors in 1990, he spent just U.S.$90 million. An agency he
established in 1991 to oversee poverty relief programs (FONCODES) was spending
just 20 percent of its budget in 1992, though it had reached the 50 percent
level by 1994 (Roberts, 1995, pp.102-103).
However, Fujimori has apparently turned the corner and has increased social
spending, as Promperu products claim. FONCODES in 1993 funded 10,000
small-scale initiatives in agriculture, health care, education, nutrition and
other social infrastructure arenas. Fujimori became visibly associated with
efforts to alleviate poverty, escalating visits to public works projects in poor
communities. He even "personally dedicated 71 schools, mostly in lower-class
urban districts" (Roberts, 1995, pp.103-104). Needless to say, such activity
has garnered enthusiastic media coverage.
President Fujimori is either well schooled in the techniques of public
relations and political communication, or he is getting excellent advice.
Personally, and through his Promperu agency, he is very effectively conveying
the messages of his policies to the external audience and, though it has not
been the subject of this paper, apparently to an internal audience as well.
While Latin American public affairs efforts have traditionally been limited to
tourism promotion and to some extent investor relations, we are seeing signs of
increased sophistication, especially in the government sector (Strenski, 1996).
Per# is clearly a prime example.
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Serrill, Michael S. 1996. Back to the caudillos?: democracies under strain
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Worldwide Web Sites:
/set (Sep. 26, 1996)
Al dia --
Business -- http://apu.rcp.net.pe/promperu/negocios/business.html
(Oct. 7, 1996)
Catalog -- http://ekeko.rcp.net.pe/promperu/catalogo/catalogo-i.html
(Sept. 26, 1996)
Home -- http://apu.rcp.net.pe/promperu/index-i.html (Oct. 7, 1996)
http://ekeko.rcp.net.pe/promperu/negocios/manufacturing.html (Sep. 26,
Tables -- http://apu.rcp.net.pe/promperu/cifras-i/cifras-i.html (Oct.
Welcome -- http://apu.rcp.net.pe/promperu/welcome.html (Oct. 7, 1996)
 While Pinochet's candidate lost the election to Patricio Aylwin Az car,
Pinochet retained his position as head of the Chilean military along with the
authority to appoint individuals to key government positions.
 For example, in 1995, while awaiting a flight at the Miami airport
enroute to a promotional visit to Europe, she seized the opportunity to address
a group of American scholars passing through the airport on their way to a
Fulbright-sponsored tour of several Latin American nations (Walker, discussion,
 Ecuador and Per waged a war over an unmarked Amazon border region from
January 26 - February 28, 1995 (FBIS, October 3, 1995)
 "El Chino" does not mean, as some have said, "The Chinese." Rather,
the term appears to mean Nissei or Sansei, as "Turco" refers to anyone of Arab
extraction. He would not be called "El Japoneso" since that would refer to
someone who is not a Peruvian citizen (LaSor, 1996).