The capture in Cali, Colombia, of Rodolfo Orellano, is an important advance in the struggle against corruption in Peru. Orellano has been now been expelled from Colombia and imprisoned in Peru. He and his immediate family is thought to have amassed a multi-million dollar fortune in recent years from real estate deals, drug trafficking, illegal lumbering and informal gold mining activities. He has been on the run since an order for his arrest was published last July for money laundering.
Orellano is also thought to be closely involved in the corruption case in Ancash involving the former regional president César Alvarez, with many friends in high places, not least in the judiciary. He is widely believed to have used his influence over public officials to swing deals beneficial to his various illicit activities and used menacing threats against leading politicians and officials to this end. He is the lynchpin of a substantial organisation, and his arrest will almost certainly lead to that of other close collaborators. However, it remains to be seen if his friends in the judiciary are able to use their influence to protect their powerful partner.
Another week, another murder. Last week we reported on the death of Fidel Flores in Cajamarca, shot down by police at short range outside his home. This week it has been the turn of a young journalist, Fernando Raymondi. Raymondi, aged 22 and a trainee journalist with the weekly news magazine Caretas, was killed by unknown assailants – again at point blank range – at his father’s small business in Cañete, south of Lima.
Raymondi had been investigating the activities in the Cañete area, known as the Sur Chico, of mafias in the construction industry and their use of hired assassins to deal with known adversaries. The boom in the construction industry, coupled with a lack of proper controls over the way contracts are awarded, has led to a rapid rise in intimidation and the use of violence. Some 60 assassinations have taken place over the last two years.
The police authorities dealing with the case have attributed the killing to a simple assault on a business premises. But Fernando’s father, who was preparing supper at the time his son was shot and was the only direct witness, has no doubt that this is nonsense. The killers, he says, made no attempt to rob the premises and fled by moto-taxi as soon as his son had been attacked.
Following the killing, and somewhat late in the day, the Interior Ministry dispatched reinforcements to Cañete in a show of force. The minister, Daniel Urresti, himself accused of having caused the death of a journalist from the very same magazine back in the 1980s when on active service in the security forces, responded to Raimundi’s killing casting doubt on the police explanation and promising a thorough investigation.
The appointment in June of Orresti, who likes to dress in police fatigues and talk tough, was a move by President Humala designed to respond to growing unease about the climate of growing violence on the streets of Peru.
No to impunity
Family members of victims of human rights violations staged a demonstration outside the Palace of Justice on November 14 to protest at the impunity of the perpetrators among the security forces. A number of recent judicial decisions have impeded the sanction of those involved in the Comando Rodrigo Franco, a shadowy death squad active during Alan García’s first government (1985-90). One of its victims was Saul Cantoral, the mineworkers’ federation leader. According to the Ombudsman’s office (Defensoría del Pueblo) in August, the judiciary ruled on 97 human rights cases in 2013, in which 78% of those charged with crimes were absolved. The protest took place a week before the judiciary considers an appeal by former president Alberto Fujimori against his imprisonment on human rights and corruption crimes.