Friday, August 9, 2013

Leaked Tapes Spark Uproar in Peru

The release of recordings of a meeting between top Peruvian cabinet and judicial officials has brought new attention to a high-profile human rights case, and fueled allegations of politicization in Peru’s judiciary branch. 

On August 1, an anonymous user posted a series of audio recordings to YouTube which claimed to be from a May 2012 meeting of high level government officials. Present were former Supreme Court head Cesar San Martin, then Justice Minister and current Prime Minister Juan Jimenez Mayor, and current Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano. According to transcripts of the recording published by La Republica, the officials were discussing the Chavin de Huantar case, involving allegations that former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos and other military ordered the extrajudicial execution of several Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) rebels following a hostage rescue operation in the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in 1997.

At the time, the case was being heard in a Peruvian criminal court by Judge Carmen Rojjasi, who was also present at the meeting. The officials proceeded to “unify their criteria,” as San Martin put it, effectively consolidating the government’s case against prosecutors. They also expressed concern that if Montesinos and others were found guilty, it would hurt the government’s chances of defending itself before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

In October 2012, Rojjasi found the defendants not guilty, and last month the Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

Human rights groups, most notably the Association for Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH), have pounced on the recordings, questioning the Chavin de Huantar rulings and accusing the administration of President Ollanta Humala of exerting undue influence on the judiciary branch.

On Tuesday, APRODEH Director Gloria Cano told La Republica that her organization would present the recordings to the Inter-American Court, which is still mulling the case and is expected to reach a verdict in December. Legal experts consulted by La Industria, however, say the Court could not use them as evidence as they were illegally obtained.

Meanwhile, government prosecutors have announced they will look into the content of the audio recordings, and a judicial review board has said it is investigating San Martin for misconduct.

While the Humala administration has denied any wrongdoing, it comes as the latest proof of  politicization of government institutions, following last month’s protests of a controversial nomination process in which the main parties divvied up several top positions.


News Briefs
  • The Associated Press reported yesterday that the Venezuelan government has released an arrest warrant for Oscar Lopez, a close aide to opposition leader Henrique Capriles. According to El Nacional, his house was raided by security forces as well. The opposition Democratic Unity Table (MUD) has denounced the issue of the warrant as “a new attack against those who don’t stop fighting for the restitution of legality, justice and rights in Venezuela.”
  • The Venezuelan government has announced  that six Venezuelan soldiers have been detained after allegedly killing a university student in the coastal state of Carabobo. The troops had been deployed as part of a government plan to combat crime, the AP reports.
  • Bloomberg has an extremely in-depth report on the illegal mining interests of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). According to the piece, the only place in Colombia where locals mine tungsten -- a valuable material widely used in electronic appliances -- is controlled by the FARC, and there are questions about the legality of multinational corporations in purchasing the material from middlemen.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has asked the United States for clarification on the extent of its surveillance activity in the country, saying  both countries “are at this time in conversations to see if that was everything that was done or if some other type of espionage occurred,” according to the AP.
  • David Smilde and Rebecca Hanson of Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights have posted a follow-up to a previous post on a new gun control law signed into law last month. They note that ever since its passage, the measure has faced criticism across the country’s political spectrum, most of which has focused on a lack of political will to implement it as well as its alleged inapplicability to the current context.
  • Ahead of a visit to Colombia next week by Secretary of State John Kerry, Just the Facts has an overview of his stance on military aid to the country, highlighting a number of statements he has made over the past 15 years on the subject.  This will be Kerry’s first trip to South America since becoming Secretary of State, and Reuters reports that Kerry will also stop in Brazil.
  • On Thursday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its latest survey on Colombia’s coca crop, finding that it had fallen by 25 percent last year, and is now down to 48,000 hectares. However, as the AP reported, the country’s “potential cocaine production” only dropped 10 percent in 2012, according to the UN’s figures.
  • Spain’s El Pais and IPS both have good overviews of the impact of the recent push by legislators of Mexico’s left-wing PRD party to legalize marijuana in Mexico City. Animal Politico reports that the initiative got a boost from the main union of pharmacy owners in the country, UNEFARM, which has said it supports the idea of selling limited quantities of the drug in pharmacies in the city, though the  association stressed it would only support its medicinal use.
  • The three major political parties behind The Pact for Mexico, which has helped President Enrique Peña Nieto pass a number of reforms since taking office, have agreed to set up working groups to pass electoral reforms, a primary demand of the PRD, El Informador reports.