US interventionism in the Peruvian justice system and the coup d’état against Pedro Castillo

Suspicions were raised after the US Ambassador to Peru posted a photo with Peru’s Attorney General. Peruvian activist and jurist José Carlos Llerena Robles argues that US interventionism in the Peruvian justice system has much deeper roots

May 09, 2023 by José Carlos Llerena
US Ambassador Lisa Kenna with Peruvian Attorney General Patricia Benavides. Photo: Twitter

Lee en español aquí

On April 13, US Ambassador to Peru Lisa Kenna posted a photo with the Peruvian Attorney General Patricia Benavides on her personal Twitter account. She added that the two had a meeting to discuss “the importance of moving forward with investigations of incidents of violence and human rights cases in recent months”.

This tweet is further evidence to not only the role played by the US embassy in the coup d’état against President Pedro Castillo Terrones on December 7, 2022, but also a long history of US interventionism in the justice system of our country. It also shows that today, in a period of multi-polar transition, is extremely strategic for the US to take care of its “Backyard” and give continuity to the Monroe Doctrine.

There is no doubt about the fundamental role played by Prosecutor Benavides in the judicial, parliamentary, and media plot to achieve the illegal and arbitrary detention of President Castillo. As such, the meetings held prior to the coup d’état of December 7, 2022, as well as the public congratulations from Ambassador Kenna, a former CIA officer according to her public resume, to the prosecutor are no coincidence. It is worth noting that the prosecutor’s sister is a suspect in the organized crime case “Los Cuellos Blancos del Puerto” (White Collars of the Port).

However, this meddling of US hegemony in the internal affairs of the Peruvian State is neither recent nor specific to this case. Economist Silvio Rendón, in his book “The intervention of the United States in Peru. From the project of the protectorate till Wikileaks”, systematizes the Yankee interventionism in our country since the War of the Pacific, with its modalities ranging from its military modalities to the “Human Rights” industry. At the beginning of the year 2000, in the well-known period of the “return to democracy”, this interventionism adopted a different garb. Through NGOs and with USAID funding, support was given to the “Reform of the Justice System”.

The purpose of this interventionist tactic is to guarantee control over the design and application of the Justice System in Peru in order to safeguard US economic, commercial and geopolitical interests in the country. For example, USAID was in charge of the training and promotion of the new Criminal Procedure Code, as detailed by Javier De Belaunde in his text “The Reform of the Justice System, on the right path?”

As De Belaunde points out, “the new Code proposes a new model of criminal procedure. The new law, which is accusatory, oral and public, redefines the roles of the judges and the Public Prosecutor’s Office”.

In other words, the United States Agency for International Development helped determine the procedural rules of the Peruvian criminal process, as well as the “training” of state actors in the process, such as the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The importation of legal categories or mechanisms is also part of the interventionism in the justice system. This not only guarantees procedures similar to those that exist in the United States, but also builds and feeds a consensus among legal operators about how the American model of justice is an ideal. This happens with the Law of Effective Collaboration, or Plea Bargaining, which today is so useful for Lawfare schemes where the imputation of crimes of “corruption” to progressive and leftist leaders are always based on testimonies of “witnesses” and “effective collaborators”, rather than on evidence to support a criminal charge. Effective Collaboration makes it possible for Judge Moro, a ward of the US Department of Justice, to say bluntly, at the time of sentencing President Lula Da Silva: “I have no evidence, but I have convictions”.

Another manifestation of this interventionism in the justice system, and perhaps more shamelessly, is the extension of the scope of application of US laws to Peruvian territory. This happens, for example, with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which turns out to be, as Romano and Britto point out, “a legal and institutional framework that enables the extraterritoriality of US regulations, affecting individuals, companies and entire economies”. Precisely, this legal scheme allows the United States to apply economic sanctions to States whose alternative projects do not satisfy US expectations, violating any notion of sovereignty of the peoples, or to prosecute leftist leaders for accusations of “corruption” which in the long run are never proven but which are effective for short-term political purposes of the Creole elites and US imperialism.

In this sense, the recent meeting between the US Ambassador Kenna and the Peruvian Public Prosecutor is nothing but another evidence of the level of interventionism of the US imperialism that Peru has been suffering for several years. The official communication channels show that the US Embassy, even before Patricia Benavides took office, has had an intimate relationship with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which raises doubts as to whether the interests of the Peruvian people are being prioritized in the prosecutor’s work in Peru.

It is enough to lift a stone in the Peruvian justice system to find funds from the US State that seek to guarantee its geopolitical interests instead of the effective jurisdictional protection that all Peruvian men and women deserve. From the presence of USAID in the first level of the Judicial Branch building, to the apparently “collaborative” Justice Sector Support Project -managed by the ABA ROLI and funded by the US State Department- which in 2017 developed a “Digital Evidence Manual” for the Public Prosecutor’s Office, to the training and capacity building of justice system operators by NGOs with funding from USAID and NED. The meeting between the Prosecutor of the Nation and the ambassador is only the tip of the iceberg of an affront to the sovereignty of justice of Peru, but, at the same time, irrefutable proof of the role of the United States in the coup d’état against President Pedro Castillo on December 7, 2022.