Free Peru party faces lawfare campaign

This weekend, the officials of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Peruvian National Police raided seven premises of the ruling Free Peru party, including the house of its founder and secretary general, Vladimir Cerrón, in an alleged corruption and money laundering case

August 30, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
The founder and secretary general of the ruling Free Peru party, Vladimir Cerrón. Photo: La Republica

In the early morning of August 28, the officials of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Peruvian National Police raided seven premises of the ruling Free Peru party, including the house of its founder and secretary general, Vladimir Cerrón. The raids carried out in Lima and Junín regions were as a part of the investigation into the ‘Los Dinámicos del Centro’ case, an alleged corruption and money laundering case related to the irregular issuance of driver’s licenses in the Junín region.

The National Preparatory Investigation Court, through Judge Juan Carlos Sánchez Balbuena, ordered “the search and seizure of assets” on the request of prosecutor Richard Rojas, who accused the former governor of Junín (2011-2014), Cerrón and the Free Peru party of allegedly using the illicitly collected money to finance the election campaign. Rojas has included in the case the prime minister and the president of the council of ministers, Guido Bellido, among other members of Free Peru.

Cerrón’s lawyer Raúl Noblecilla said that the prosecutor Roja did not have “sufficient reasons” to request such a measure and that the raid would have been used “by pressure.”

It is evident that with this judicial maneuver, the right-wing opposition is trying to outlaw the Free Peru party. Some opposition leaders have called on the justice to suspend it as a party for at least two years, while the investigation for the alleged crime continues.

The platform Social Movements of ALBA, which had warned the last week that a coup d’état was in progress against the socialist government of President Pedro Castillo, on August 29, rejected this new destabilization move, executed less than 24 hours after the congress granted the vote of confidence to Bellido’s cabinet.

“From ALBA Movimientos we denounce this new lawfare backlash against Free Peru and Vladimir Cerrón, a few hours after the vote of confidence in the cabinet of ministers of the new popular government was approved. The regressive and colonial / colonized right-wing, (…), could not assume its defeat in congress and counterattacked against the political-organizational pillar of Pedro Castillo’s government through raids on party’s premises and judicially and mediatically its main driver, comrade Cerrón, who has stoically endured all the attacks, fake news, defamations, and ignorance of the opposition and some allied sectors,” said the organization in a statement.

The platform, which brings together more than 400 social movements from 25 Latin American countries, reiterated that the right-wing opposition “made its first advance by removing Professor Héctor Béjar from the foreign ministry (a blow to the construction of the Great Homeland and to stop interference in the region); then they had to swallow their pride and accept the cabinet of ministers without further modification and, without waiting too long, they returned to the offensive against the government’s organizational reinsurance that is the Free Peru party and its main militant cadres.”

The organization called on the people of the entire region to remain alert and stressed that “this strategy is not new, it has already been applied in Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, and Bolivia, where the reactionary forces divide, isolate, persecute and imprison popular referents and militants,  weaken the rest and then go for everything. For those who managed to destroy publicly and for those who washed their hands in the face of the persecution of their own companions under the same arguments as the enemy.”

The alliance emphasized that it “will continue to support the Peruvian people in their struggle for a freer, just and sovereign homeland, their new popular government that has just been able to take its first breath, but we warn that the dominant powers avengorland in Peru do not stop or cease to conspire to defeat this project as a whole or in parts.”

The body condemned that “in this strategy, the judicial powers in this sister country and the entire region act as the spearhead of domination, which, added to the mass media and operations on social networks, do not allow the minimum exercise of democracy, let alone the active and leading participation of the people” and ratified that it “will always stand next to those who the media hegemonies and the judiciary want to destroy.”

The Free Peru party also rejected the raids in its offices and the continuation of political persecution against it and its members. “One day after the cabinet chaired by Bellido was given a vote of confidence, there was a new disproportionate and irrational measure against Free Peru and its leaders. It is known to the public that the Peruvian judicial system intended to raid and detain party leaders two days before the second round. It is no surprise that these actions against Free Peru once again take place on dates close to political events of great importance to the country,” said the party in a statement, referring to the initiation of the process to collect citizens’ signatures to hold a referendum to ask Peruvians if they wish to change the current constitution.

The party added that “the public is informed that the party and its leaders have submitted information and other requests made by the Prosecutor’s Office and the court, for this new reason and decision to search for its premises and homes of its members that has no legal justification. The party has always complied with informing the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) and other institutions of its expenses. It has never fled to report on its economic resources under the law.”

Amid the fierce political, judicial and media persecution, the progressive government continued working to fulfill the promise to change the free-market friendly constitution, written and imposed during Alberto Fujimori’s dictatorship (1999-2000). On August 30, the party issued a directive, signed by Cerrón, in which it explained the guidelines for collecting signatures. The party called on the citizens to sign the petition and forge a new constitution that would dismantle neoliberalism and shape a new economic model proposed by Peru Libre.