LatinNews Daily - 20 June 2023

PERU: New health minister faces severe dengue outbreak

On 19 June César Vásquez Sánchez was appointed as Peru’s new health minister, and will be immediately tasked with managing the country’s worst-ever outbreak of dengue fever.


President Dina Boluarte’s administration is coming under mounting criticism for its slow response to the dengue outbreak, which is Peru’s worst on record. The shakeup at the health ministry may help get the situation under control, but Vásquez’s appointment will prove controversial – he has been repeatedly accused of corruption over the past 25 years in various positions he held in politics and the health sector.

  • Vásquez, a surgeon and former deputy for the right-wing Alianza para el Progreso (APP), will face the instant challenge of controlling Peru’s worst outbreak of dengue fever on record. As of yesterday, health ministry data showed that 156,753 cases had been recorded so far in 2023, resulting in at least 204 deaths. The outbreak is particularly concentrated in the north of the country, where scientists warn that heavy rains and warm conditions caused by the El Niño weather pattern are fuelling the spread of the disease.
  • His predecessor, Rosa Gutiérrez, resigned on 15 June shortly before she was due to face questioning by congress on the government’s response to the dengue outbreak. The congressional summons, tabled by the right-wing Avanza País (AvP), noted that dengue cases in the first five months of the year were up by 111% on the same period in 2022 and by 88% on the same period in 2017, when a previous El Niño event fuelled what was until now Peru’s worst ever dengue outbreak.
  • Vásquez is a controversial figure who has been repeatedly accused of corruption. Since 1999 he has been the subject of 19 judicial complaints, according to national daily La República, encompassing allegations of extorsion, bribery, abuse of public office, illicit appropriation, and procedural fraud, among other offences. In 2021, former attorney general Zoraida Ávalos lodged a constitutional complaint against Vásquez, accusing him of influence peddling as an alleged member of the criminal group Los Temerarios del Crimen, which was led by David Cornejo Chinguel, the former mayor (2015-2018) of Chiclayo in the north-western Lambayeque region.

Looking Ahead: The dengue outbreak, and the appointment of a new health minister repeatedly accused of corruption, may worsen the deep unpopularity of Boluarte’s government. Yesterday, a grouping of civil society organisations announced that they will resume anti-government protests around the country from 22-25 July.

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