Magistrate corruption sparks new political crisis in Peru

LIMA – Peru’s justice and political systems have sunk into a deep crisis. President Martín Vizcarra has proposed a reform to the 1993 Constitution as a possible solution. His proposal came after thousands took to the streets seeking the dismissal of corrupt individuals in the judiciary.

Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra asked congress for a reform of the 1993 Constitution as a measure to fight corruption, in response to popular protests seeking a change in the justice system. Protests erupted after wiretapped calls revealed corruption at the highest levels in the judiciary.

News outlet IDL Reporteros published communication from the president of Callao’s superior court Walter Ríos, and at least three counselors from the national magistrates council and one supreme court magistrate. In the communications, all of them clearly refer to influence peddling and corruption as the audios expose how the magistrates council designates new members in exchange for personal favors.

As thousands took to the streets to express their anger, President Vizcarra signaled his understanding and proposed a referendum to reform the Constitution, so magistrates would be selected by merit in a public contest. In addition, Vizcarra also proposed a referendum to eliminate the magistrate’s reelection, and the sanctioning of private sponsoring for political campaigns and parties.

The national police and the public prosecutor started investigating the accusations. Raiding several offices, 11 corrupt functionaries were captured. Interior minister Mauro Medina Guimaraes highlighted that some 400 officials and 26 prosecutors specialized in organized crime participated in the operation.

Walter Ríos of Callao’s superior court is imprisoned since July 15, when the wiretapped communications emerged. When he was arrested, he said he wouldn’t flee from justice, and vowed to collaborate with the investigation.

Vizcarra’s proposals are being discussed in the opposition-led parliament. But Verónika Mendoza, leader of Nuevo Perú party, considered it unlikely that a congress dominated by Keiko Fujimori and her ‘fujimorismo’ would back Vizcarra’s proposal. She also explained the repercussions of such an outcome: “If congress impedes these reforms, the president would be legitimized to close congress and call for snap elections. That is an option we shouldn’t rule out, as parliament doesn’t respect the law, the Constitution, or even the popular will,” Nuevo Peru’s leader said.

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