The announcement last week that the government is considering selling off Petroperú’s headquarters in San Isidro has set alarm bells ringing that this portends the privatisation of the state oil company.

Fears on this score were raised when “restructuring” Petroperú was included among the five areas for which the executive asked Congress for special legislative powers last September.

Defining the future of Petroperú has long been a battleground within government between hardened neoliberals and those who see a role for the state in what they would say is a strategic sector. At the centre of the row has been the role played by Petroperú in the upgrading of the Talara refinery, a project now half complete.

The appointment of Humberto Campodónico as head of Petroperú when Ollanta Humala became president in 2011 was widely seen as a shift back towards a more statist approach. But Campodónico found himself up against the Ministry of Economy and Finance where neoliberal thinking reigned supreme. He lasted in Petroperú up until the end of 2012. He is now among the leading critics of what he sees as the Kuczynski administration’s efforts to effectively privatise the one major state company to survive the privatisation onslaught of the Fujimori era.

Campodónico is particularly critical of Legislative Decree 1292, one of the raft of legislative measures passed which will now have to be ratified (or not) by Congress. Article 3 of this decree, he says, would basically convert Petroperú into a holding company while the various divisions of the company are hived off to third parties. “This will fragment the company. It is a covert privatisation. We had hoped it [Petroperú] would be strengthened but today we see it being torn apart”.

Germán Alarco, from the Universidad del Pacífico, is also critical of what he thinks Article 3 is intended to achieve, saying it is an attempt to privatise by the back door.

The announcement that the emblematic Petroperú building is to be sold off, he maintains, is a “joke in bad taste”.