Corruption Allegations Claim Scalp of Third Regional Chief in 3 Weeks

Peru’s heads of regional government appear a shady bunch. Only six presidents in the country’s 25 regions stand untainted at present by corruption allegations.

Bribes, illegal land sales, and the ordered killing of political adversaries, are the charges levelled at heads of its local authorities in recent weeks.

The president of Pasco, Klever Uribe Melendez Gamarra, was arrested yesterday for the alleged accepting a $100,000 bribe to award a hospital construction contract to a bidder.

Tumbes’ Gerardo Viñas Dioses was also detained this week, accused of selling undervalued prime real-estate in the coastal resort of Punta Sal at a loss of 21 million soles ($7.5 million) to the taxpayer.

The case of Ancash’s dismissed president, Cesar Alvarez Aguilar, is yet more egregious.

Mr Alvarez is alleged to have plotted the murder of a rival regional councillor ahead of elections for the local authority later this year.

The unfolding case has roiled the country.

The murder of Ezequiel Nolasco in March drew suspicion and led to testimonies which reopened old cases linking him with the killing of eight other politicians since entering office in 2007.

He’s now held in custody and says the charges were politically motivated to discredit his reelection bid.

Map of Peru's regions / thejourney1972
Map of Peru’s regions / thejourney1972

The heads of Cajamarca and Cusco, whose coffers are filled with taxes from the major oil and mining industry, are being investigated for nine and 10 respective cases of corruption in addition.

1,505 cases linking presidents and administration officials proceed through the courts presently, according to the public prosecutor. 19 presidents are involved in 158 cases of corruption, the newspaper La Republica reports. Ayacucho’s regional government is undergoing a record 260 cases.

Decentralisation 

Peru’s regional governments gained control of their finances for the first time about a decade ago, when the Toledo government set in motion a plan to decentralise decision-making from the capital.

Increased foreign investment and a boom in Peru’s mining industry has seen regional governments control larger budgets, enabling officials to wield significant power in the allocation of funds.

The state has demanded little oversight of how funds are managed.

Ancash’s budget was 1,226 million soles ($439 million) last year while Tumbes’ was 371 million soles.

President Ollanta Humala, has said not all regional governments should be tarred with the same brush, though said the government “hasn’t closed its eyes” to the corruption allegations.

Peru’s judicial system has been criticised in the past for the failure to bring to justice the rigged award of public contracts, unfinished public works or non-authorised payments.

Its recent activism in relation to these cases could signal it’s becoming more effective.

83rd of 177

Transparency International rated Peru the 83rd most corrupt state out of 177 in the world last year. It has fallen in the rankings since 2010 with a score of 38 percent and was ranked with El Salvador, Mongolia and Zambia. The anti-corruption organisation says a score below 50 percent indicates a “serious level of corruption”.

Former president Alan Garcia is undergoing investigation by a so-called “Megacommission” appointed by President Humala regarding the release of hundreds of drug traffickers in his 2006-2011 government.

Corruption has been a constant in Peruvian politics. Former president from 1990 to 2000 Alberto Fujimori is serving three more years of a seven-year prison term.

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