Peru’s Congress will vote whether to impeach defense minister Jakke Valakivi two weeks from the end of his term for his attempt to charge journalists with treason.
Valakivi had requested treason charges against three journalists in a closed parliamentary session on June 28. Valakivi said the journalists published a classified report which ultimately identified confidential informants in the April 17 broadcast of Panorama, which reported alleged corruption in the military.
Several legislators immediately pushed back against Valakivi’s request for a closed hearing and denounced him for intimidating journalists. Popular Christian Party congresswoman repeatedly called Valakivi a “liar” as a movement swelled to impeach the defense minister less than one month from the end of President Ollanta Humala’s government.
“It worries me that a state office, rather than be concerned with more important things, is devoting time and money toward an allegation that will not go forward. It is absurd that they prosecute us for investigating what happens in the VRAEM,” Panorama anchor and editor-in-chief Rosana Cueva told El Comercio.
The Panorama report highlighted apparent embezzlement in the VRAEM, Peru’s top coca-producing region where Shining Path guerrillas killed 10 military and civilian personnel on the eve of Peru’s election.
Panorama obtained documents and expense reports detailing payments made to various confidential informants. Several of these informants denied having worked with the military or receiving money on camera. One of the informants was an active soldier in the army and prohibited from working in such a capacity.
Opposition legislators led by the Popular Force and APRA parties on Thursday presented a motion to impeach Valakivi for his “unacceptable act of intimidation against freedom of the press, expression and information.”
To unseat Valakivi, however, Congress would have to hold an extraordinary session, which requires 78 of the legislature to sign a request to convene. La Republica reports that the effort had gathered 50 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
The motion to censure Valakivi is being led by APRA congressman Javier Velasquez. Other high-profile congressmen supporting censure include current Vice President Marisol Espinoza, Popular Force spokesman Pedro Spadaro, APRA spokesman Mauricio Mulder and Peruvians for Change spokesman Carlos Bruce.
The Inter-American Press Association called the charges “an act of intimidation, excess and restrictions on press freedom.”
The College of Journalists of Peru also condemned Valakivi, saying that prosecuting the Panorama journalists “violates the rule of law that protects every citizen to inform and be informed of events of national interest.”
If censured, the impeachment of his defense minister would be one last parting shot from Congress against the unpopular government of Humala. Ipsos reported a 19% approval rating for the president in June. His last year in office never saw approval reach 20%.
La hora del consenso (Ipsos)