Peruvian scandal takes toll on politicians, journalists come under pressure

A series of audio recordings of senior members of the Peruvian judiciary’s telephone conversations imply they were requesting and/or offering illegal actions to other government officers and civilians, in a report by investigative journalist Gustavo Gorriti.

The audio material, made public in July, reveals magistrates apparently negotiating favors such as the innocence of a rapist, assignment of job posts, tickets for seats in Russian stadiums where Peru played the World Cup, lavish meals at expensive restaurants and much more.

The conversations were part of wiretaps authorized by a judge in the course of a tax investigation against mafias linked to drug trafficking, blackmailing and hiring of hitmen. The thread of these communications led to the core of the Peruvian judiciary (New York Times En Español).

The dialogues have been shaking Peruvian politics and, like an earthquake, have knocked down a few very high profile figures.

Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski ended up stepping down to avoid a vote of impeachment at the Congress, becoming the highest level politician to fall due to the scandal while in office. (BBC News Mundo in Spanish)

Also as a result, president of the Supreme Court Duberlí Rodríguez, minister of justice Salvador Heresi and several members of the National Council of the Judiciary (the autonomous body responsible for appointing all judges and prosecutors of Peru) all resigned. Some other officers were ousted. By early August, 11 more people were arrested by the Peruvian Prosecution Office in connection with the scandal.

At the same time, the Peruvian government’s reactions to Gorriti’s investigative reporting started too.

After a police attempt to raid IDL-Reporteros offices and a congress questioning of Gorriti’s sources  on July 10, the influential Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Peruvian government authorities to stop their harassment. This related to both IDL-Reporteros and Panorama, the local news program that first broadcast the audio material in the news website’s coverage of alleged government corruption. The Prosecutor’s office denied the allegations.

Investigation and subsequent airing of the audios was a labor of love for Gustavo Gorriti, director of IDL-Reporteros — an experimental investigative journalism project stemming out of the nonprofit Legal Defense Institute of Peru (IDL, link in Spanish).

Gorriti, a distinguished investigative journalist, published the report revealing alleged acts of corruption in the Peruvian judicial system, with the accompanying recordings.

“There is no culture [in Peru] to encourage honesty, but honesty does exist,” Gorriti said.

Inside all institutions, in the judiciary, you will find pockets of virtue. People who do not give up, who fight against that corruption,” he said in a BBC report. (BBC News Mundo)

A corruption scandal involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht — which bribed several of the most important politicians in Latin America and the world, to win tenders for major public works on three continents — erupted in 2016. This caused a chain reaction in the region, especially in Brazil, Panama and Peru.


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