Peru Political Situation Part III
At the beginning of July 2019, the Vizcarra government approved the start of the Tía María copper project by the Mexican company Southern Peru in the Tambo Valley. The population of Islay Province rioted on July 15 over fears for agriculture and water. The government is facing a difficult problem shortly before the national holiday celebrations, which again revolve around the issues of mining and social conflict.
On July 15, 2019, ex-President Alejandro Toledo was arrested in California after an application by the Peruvian public prosecutor to expel him because of contract award agreements and money laundering. The judge Richard Concepción Carhuancho issued an 18-month preventive detention in February 2017 because Toledo is said to have received funds from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht for the construction of routes 2 and 3 of the «interoceánica» street. In a court hearing on July 19, 2019, the Californian judge Hixson decided that Toledo should remain imprisoned until the deportation request has been decided. Finding a suitcase with 40,000 US dollars in banknotes during a search of the Toledo property is said to have convinced the judge of the risk of escape. This process could take up to a year.
On June 4, 2019, the Congress approved the vote of confidence placed by Vizcarra. The constitutional commission responsible for dealing with this matter, chaired by Rosa Bartra, asked for an extension of the legislative period of the Congress in order to be able to process the six bills presented by the executive branch. Since the congress had already substantially changed legislative initiatives that had already been put forward, the Prime Minister asked Salvador del Solar not to modify the core of the initiatives now put forward. He certified this quality on five of the bills dealt with by the commission, and objected to the question of the waiver of immunity for congressmen, since the constitutional commission did not allow the participation of a third party. The executive had suggested that the Supreme Court should make the decision. The plenary session of the Congress is due to pass the bills by July 25th. Above all, the decision on the last bill could have a fateful character, because the executive branch, if the current text is maintained, could reject the entire bills and ultimately dissolve Congress (it would have the privilege to do so).
In the past few weeks, the Constitutional Commission and the Standing Committee of Congress have dealt with bills for political reforms presented by the executive branch.
This was largely negative. On the one hand, an initiative to lift the immunity of Congressmen was shelved and, on the other hand, on May 28, the constitutional complaints against former Attorney General Chávarry and Chief Prosecutor Gálvez were dropped.
The following day, President Vizcarra called his cabinet to a special session and then addressed the people. He announced that he wanted to ask the vote of confidence.
He went tough with the recent decisions of the parliamentary majority. He then explained that he was asking the vote of confidence on five draft laws (the video for Vizcarra’s speech can also be viewed here): namely reforming parliamentary immunity, preventing convicted persons from running for election, and free participation in internal political party elections, for the abolition of preferential votes, for equal participation and alternation of women in politics as well as for monitoring the financing of election campaigns. Now, President of Congress Daniel Salaverry has scheduled a meeting on June 4th to discuss this issue.
If the congressmen answer the vote of confidence in the negative, the cabinet resigns and Congress is dissolved. Congress elections would then have to take place within four months. During this time, the executive governs with legislative decrees that must be ratified by the Standing Committee of Congress.
According to franciscogardening, shortly before the one-year anniversary of Martín Vizcarra’s presidency, on March 11th he presented a new equal cabinet (nine out of eighteen ministers are women) under the leadership of ex-minister of culture Salvador del Solar. The new prime minister is not a professional politician, but a charismatic communicator and should ensure better cooperation with Congress and other political forces in the second half of this government. Already on April 15, the Minister of Transport Trujillo and the Ministry of Housing and Construction Bruce Montes de Oca resigned at the request of the President and were replaced by two women, making the cabinet mostly women.
The Vizcarra government is troubled by the social conflict in the Las Bambas mining project. For more than 50 days, members of the communities adjacent to the copper mine have been blocking the only road that allows copper ore to be transported from the mine to the Matarani port.