Peru: anti-mining politician released from prison

The suspended president of Peru's Cajamarca region and former presidential candidate Gregorio Santos was released from Piedras Gordas (Ancón I) prison outside Lima July 27, following a decision by the country's Supreme Court to annul an extension of his "preventative detention." Walking through the gates of the prison, he greeted hundreds of supporters gathered there, telling them that "preventative detention" is being used for "political vengeance" in Peru. Santos was detained in 2014, ostensibly while judicial authorities investigated corruption accusations. But no formal charges were ever brought, and Santos maintains he was imprisoned to sabotage his political career and as retribution for opposing the US-backed Conga mega-mining project. Santos said that thousands are unjustly held in "preventative detention" across the country, often for political reasons.

Immediately upon his release, Santos and his supporters headed to Lima's historic center, where he presided over a public meeting of thousands in San Martín Plaza, together with Cajamarca congressman Jorge Rimarachín. Days before the high court decision, a popular mobilization in Cajamarca brought thousands to the streets to demand Santos' freedom. Supporters marched under the slogan "Goyo Libertad," a reference to his nickname. (La República, July 28; VOA, July 27; Comercio, July 24; RPP, July 23)

Santos' release came one day before Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) was sworn in as Peru's new president. Striking a populist tone in his Independence Day inauguration speech, PPK said: "I want a social revolution for my country. I wish that in five years Peru will be a country that is more modern, fair, equal and supportive." Before his inauguration, Kuczynski has said he will reject ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori's request for a pardon from his 25-year prison term for crimes against humanity. (WSJ, July 28; Peru Reports, July 25)