A new crisis. Since this Monday, the Public Ministry of Peru has been facing an internal earthquake, which has also had aftershocks in the Executive and Congress, after the beginning of an investigation into the existence of an alleged criminal network headed by the attorney general, Patricia Benavidesdedicated to influence peddling.
(Also: Attorney General of Peru formalizes the dismissal of the head of the special team that investigates her)
In response, and surprisingly, Benavides dismissed the prosecutor in charge of the investigation and also denounced President Dina Boluarte and Prime Minister Alberto Otárola before Congress.for five deaths in the anti-government protests that shook the country from December 2022 to last March.
How did this crisis occur and what comes next? These are the keys to the complex case that has unleashed the war of the powers in Peru.
(Read also: Attorney General of Peru denounces President Boluarte for deaths in protest)
Prosecutor’s Office targets influence peddling network
The Special Team of Prosecutors against Power Corruption (Eficcop) and the High Complexity Crime Investigation Division of the Police undertook a series of arrests and raids on homes and offices of Benavides’ advisors and former advisors this Monday, as part of the investigation of the alleged criminal organization “entrenched in the senior management of the Public Ministry.”
That organization allegedly sought to influence “illicitly in decisions of congressmen” for the dismissal of the heads of the National Board of Justice (JNJ); the appointment of the current ombudsman, Josúe Gutiérrez, and the disqualification of the former National Prosecutor Zoraida Ávalos “for illicit purposes.”
(Keep reading: They present a complaint in Congress against the attorney general of Peru: what do they point it to?)
As part of this operation, a Benavides advisor, Jaime Villanueva, was arrested, whose home and office were raided on Monday morning. The situation was replicated with two other members of the Public Ministry close to the attorney general.. This Tuesday it was confirmed that Villanueva will remain detained for 10 days while he is investigated for allegedly being a member of the criminal organization.
This alleged network in the Public Ministry, always according to investigations, supposedly influenced the decisions of congressmen that benefit the attorney general, in exchange for her shielding several parliamentarians.
The dismissal of the head of Eficcop
This Monday, after local media reported that Marita Barreto was going to be dismissed as head of Eficcopthe prosecutors who make up the special team rejected the decision and, after announcing that “they will remain in office,” reaffirmed their “commitment to a frontal fight against corruption, wherever it comes from, and whoever falls.”
In fact, the very Benavides made Barreto’s dismissal official this Tuesday. The resolution that confirmed the measure appeared dated November 25, although it was published in an extraordinary edition of the legal regulations bulletin issued around midnight this Monday.
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Lawyer José Miguel Cuya Berrocal, who was in charge of the Second National Superior Prosecutor’s Office Specialized against Organized Crime, was also appointed as the new coordinator of Eficcop.
The resolution states that Barreto “has not complied with the timely delivery of the required information” regarding the loading of the special team and reports that “it is pertinent (…) to change the current coordination of the aforementioned special team”.
Barreto said, for his part, on the radio station RPP that Benavides’ decision is an “abuse of power”, because he considered that there is no justified reason for his change.
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However, Cuya declined the appointment for “personal reasons,” according to a letter from him addressed to Benavides and published by the Peruvian media.
Leaked chats and audios
A series of chats leaked to the press shows how Villanueva points out that He is the only one authorized to speak on behalf of Benavides and contacts parliamentarians to influence the vote to disqualify Ávalos for five years. He also argues before various congressmen the reasons for choosing the current ombudsman.
In addition, there are conversations between Villanueva and several parliamentarians about the vote to dismiss members of the JNJ, an institution that has initiated investigations against Benavides.
The opening of these investigations in Congress with the aim of dismissing the members of the highest governing body of the judiciary were denounced by various organizations for undermining the division of powers and democracy.
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According to the research, There are 37 congressmen who are allegedly linked to the case, although at the moment none have commented on the matter..
In fact, this Tuesday it was also known that there are at least 37 audios that reveal the coordination that an advisor to the attorney general made with congressmen to, among cases, achieve a sanction against the former attorney general Zoraida Ávalos.
Reply with a complaint to Boluarte
While more details of the so-called “Operation Valkyrie V” became known, two supreme prosecutors asked for Benavides’ resignation, and prosecutor Rafael Vela, who was head of the team investigating the Lava Jato case, stated that a criminal organization has taken over the Ministry. Public.
Some congressmen began to ask an advance of elections and citizens are waiting for a statement from the National Board of Justice, an organization that can dismiss Benavides.
Benavides issued a statement, accompanied by two of the six supreme prosecutors, and announced that the investigation is a “premeditated attack” and a “clumsy attempt” by the “powerful who do not want to be investigated.”
He immediately announced that he denounced President Boluarte and the Prime Minister, as well as three other former Interior Ministers who held that portfolio during the protests, for the alleged commission of the crime of aggravated homicide.
Boluarte assured this Monday that the complaint filed against him It is a “despicable political maneuver” with which it aims to “distract the attention” of citizens.
The Peruvian president affirmed in a statement at the Government Palace that Benavides “has to respond to the corresponding authorities in a clear and precise manner” for the investigation opened by the anti-corruption unit of the Prosecutor’s Office and that she points out to the attorney general to lead a alleged criminal network in the Public Ministry accused of influence peddling.
An uncertain scenario
The complaint against Boluarte can only be presented before Congress, since it is a case committed while she was exercising the Presidency, so it will be the Legislature that decides whether to accept it for processing and if, in turn, decisions are made regarding the parliamentarians involved.
Article 117 of the Peruvian Constitution establishes that a sitting president can only be accused of treason, the irregular dissolution of Parliament or preventing the functioning of electoral bodies, among other constitutional assumptions.
However, Benavides denounced then-president Pedro Castillo in 2022. As the Prosecutor’s Office explained then, this type of constitutional complaints are a procedure that allows determining whether people with immunity have committed crimes during the exercise of their functions.
For the moment, the Legislature suspended the plenary session scheduled for this Monday and over the next few days it will have to debate whether the complaint proceeds, a decision that could lead to a new train wreck between powers or protection of the president.
Benavides’ future is also up in the air, in case he does not give in to pressure and resign. It could be dismissed by the Superior Board of Prosecutors or by the JNJ.
If he continues as head of the Public Ministry, he will also have to resolve a complex situation that has called into question his leadership of the institution.
Benavides will be subjected to disciplinary process
For now, Benavides will be subjected to an immediate disciplinary process by the highest governing body of the Peruvian judiciary, the National Board of Justice, due to investigations into alleged influence peddling against her closest environment.
After 24 hours in permanent session, the National Board of Justice (JNJ) of Peru reported that These types of procedures are opened to judges or prosecutors when “there is sufficient evidence of notoriously irregular conduct”according to a statement shared on the social network
The JNJ clarified that the immediate disciplinary procedure is followed by a judge or prosecutor for the commission of a “very serious” disciplinary offense, detected at the time it is being carried out. He added that he acts in strict compliance with the Constitution, its organic law and its regulations on disciplinary procedures, “guaranteeing due process and safeguarding the public interest.”
WILLIAM MORENO HERNÁNDEZ
*With information from EFE and EL COMERCIO (PERU) / GDA
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