Peru – Former Minister and Possible Presidential Candidate Charged with Murder

Cabinets in Peru are far from stable and ministers come in and out with such rapidity that it often appears as if there is a revolving door at the end of the cabinet table. Ollanta Humala, the President of Peru, has maintained this tradition, and he has overseen frequent cabinet reshuffles and quite a collection of different prime ministers throughout his time in office. He has also clashed with Congress over ratification of his cabinet ministers.

Now more turmoil has hit the government’s cabinet. Last month, the popular Minister of the Interior, Daniel Urresti, resigned after a series of violent protests in Pichanki over exploration of natural gas and oil in the region. The minister was forced to resign after a twenty-five year old student, Ever Pérez Huamán, was killed in clashes with local police. José Luis Pérez Guadalupe replaced Urresti and for the revolving door of Peruvian cabinets, all appeared to be business as normal.

A few days later, Urresti joined the governing party of the President, the Partido Nacionalista Peruano (the Peruvian Nationalist Party), in a move that was widely interpreted as the beginning of a bid for the presidency in 2016. However, only a few days ago, Urresti was formally charged with the murder of journalist, Hugo Bustios, 26 years ago during the civil conflict in Peru, between the state and the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Maoist guerrilla movement.

Bustios was killed by a grenade in the town of Caretas while investigating human rights abuses on both sides of the conflict. A former soldier who has already been convicted of his involvement in the murder of the journalist accused Urresti, a member of army intelligence at the time, of involvement in the crime. The public prosecutor in the case, Luis Landa, has publicly announced he is seeking a 25-year term for the former minister and possible presidential candidate.

Urresti strenuously denies any wrongdoing, but if convicted, obviously he will be unable to run for the presidency. Regardless, this may well irrevocably damage his political reputation. The administration has suggested that the charges are a political ploy to discredit the Nationalist Party and its potential candidate ahead of next year’s elections.

This all comes at a very bad time for Humala and the Nationalist Party. Public prosecutors have reopened a case, which involves Humala’s wife, Nadine Herrera, and alleged money laundering before the 2011 election. This week, the Prime Minister, Ana Jara, has ben robustly defending the administration and the party against any suggestion of corruption. Legislation has come before the house proposing to reform the electoral system and address campaign corruption, but this is currently languishing on the sidelines. Expect a cabinet reshuffle any day now.

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