Peru: coup d’etat against Humala planned?

The Peruvian blogosphere is abuzz with rumors of an imminent coup d'etat against President Ollanta Humala, fomented by elements of the opposition APRA party. Humala has reportedly put off all travel abroad and is limiting his trips into the interior of the country, staying close to Lima for fear of a move against his government if he leaves the capital. The National Intelligence Directorate (DINI) has reportedly warned that elements of the National Police are discussing a strike over various greivances, actually aimed at causing an explosion of chaos and debilitating the government—following the model of the right-wing coup of Feb. 5, 1975, that brought Francisco Morales Bermúdez to power. Humala is said to have lost the confidence of the Armed Forces Joint Command, which is unhappy with his execution of the counter-insurgency program in Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE), where a remnant faction of the Sendero Luminoso guerillas remains active. (Raúl Weiner in La Mula, Dec. 23)

The rumors come amid a shake-up in the military. On Dec. 28, Gen. Leonel Cabrera Pino took over as chief of the Joint Command, replacing Adm. José Cueto, who was forced to step down over his role in a scandal concerning special treatment for a figure linked to the former dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori. The scandal that forced out Cueto concerned revelations that Óscar López Meneses, a former aide to Fujimori's now-imprisoned intelligence chief,Vladimiro Montesinos, had been given a personal security detail of National Police troops at his home in the high-class Lima suburb of Surco.

López Meneses had reportedly been responsible for carrying out electronic eavesdropping of Montesinos' political enemies, and then managed his properties and business affairs in Peru after the corrupt spy chief fled the country upon Fujimori's ouster in 2000. In 2012, he was convicted on various charges including illegal spying, embezzlement and arms trafficking, but received a suspended sentence.

A former commander of military forces in the VRAE and a specialist in intelligence and "counter-terrorism," the new armed forces commander Cabrera Pino had also been a leader of the "Chavín de Huántar" commando that carried out the bloody 1996 raid on the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima after it was seized by the MRTA guerillas. He had also been Ollanta Humala's own commander at the village of Madre Mía in the Upper Huallaga Valley in 1992, where the now-president was implicated in the extrajudicial execution of peasants who were suspected to be guerilla collaborators. (Trome, Dec. 28; Peru21, Nov. 30; Trome, Nov. 14; El Comercio, Nov. 13)

Another sign of tension between Humala and Peru's political establishment has emerged in his criticisms of the recent merger of two giants of the country's mass media. When asked if he was concerned by acquisition of Epensa media group by its main competiotor, conservative national daily El Comercio, Humala answered: "Completely. It's an embarrassment that here in Peru we have a group that practically owns [all of] the media. That's dangerous." (Peru This Week, Dec. 30)

  1. Peru: new decree instates police ‘impunity’

    On Jan. 13, Peru's executive branch promulgated a legal decree, dubbed Law 30151, touted as an anti-crime measure, that exempts members of the armed forces or National Police from criminal penalties for any death or injury resulting from use of firearms in the line of duty. The decree, signed by cabinet chief César Villanueva, was protested by human rights attorney as "opening the door to impunity." (Pro & Contra, Lima, Jan. 14) The decree was also strongly criticized in an official statement by Peru's human rights ombudman, the Defensoria del Pueblo. (PDF, Jan. 14) The measure, first proposed five years ago, has been dubbed a "license to kill."