Ombudsman 'concerned' over new vice-ministry

11 March 2017

On 9 March, the Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo), Walter Gutiérrez, expressed concern about the government’s creation of a new vice-ministry, within the Prime Minister’s office, to deal with territorial governance. Gutiérrez is concerned that the vice-ministry will further marginalise the salience of the National Office for Dialogue and Sustainability (ONDS) which takes responsibility for trying to settle social conflicts.

The Ombudsman’s office plays a key role in efforts to resolve conflicts between civil society and the state. It produces a monthly update on conflicts around the country, the most recent of which was published last week. Most of these relate to environmental and social disputes with extractive companies, notably in the mining sector.

In a letter to Prime Minister Fernando Zavala, Gutierrez wrote “The ONDS was created as a specialist technical organ which should have it owns budget. This never happened and, over time, it found itself relegated by the ministries and their sectoral teams”. He went on “Within the new legal framework and structure, the ONDS (which is supposed to operate directly with the president of the Council of Ministers [the prime minister]) becomes a simple secretary under the vice-minister of governance”. This, he alleges “reduces the level” of the ONDS and (by implication) its head, Rolando Luque.

As readers of the PSG newsletter will recall, the appointment of the new vice-minister, Javier Fernández Concha Stucker, a lawyer from the mining industry, has been criticised by NGOs working with communities in mining districts.

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