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Thursday, 25 August 2011 14:42

Peru's judicial reform starts at home

Development: On 18 August President Ollanta Humala outlined the focal point for judicial reform: attacking corruption in the judiciary.

Significance: “A corrupt judge is more dangerous than a criminal”, President Humala said on 18 August. Corruption has long undermined the public standing of judges and the sentences they hand down; the judiciary has been often described as an institution where money buys results, and allegedly, the more money one pays the more ‘justice’ one gets. Efficiency – the more technical, but less visible twin problem facing the judiciary – will nevertheless be an important component, if not the core focus.

Key points:

• Humala’s reforms are going with the grain of what senior judges, notably, César San Martin, the president of the supreme court, has been saying since he was appointed in January.

• Judges prosecuted for corruption will face tough sanctions. This is part of Humala’s hard-line position on sentencing. He wants sentences to reflect the crime.

• Corrupt judges have fuelled the public’s perception of rampant impunity.  Following the recent release of 17 criminals, classified as dangerous, President Humala said that the judiciary and the police could not “allow criminals to abuse loopholes in the law to get back on the streets”. In doing so, the government has linked judicial reform to citizen insecurity, an issue with high political traction, making reformist intentions and legislation harder to oppose.

• As part of the short term measures, the economy ministry will create a Citizen Security fund with private sector support. This is, essentially, a public-private partnership to train police and fund initiatives such as community policing or CCTV.

Published in Andean

Development: On 9 April President Hugo Chávez said he will expel US ambassador William Brownfield if he provokes violence again.

Significance: Brownfield's misdemeanour was to be assaulted while handing out equipment at a baseball game. In the tit-for-tat exchanges that characterise Venezuelan-US relations, the ambassador's populist idea seems to be a small-scale imitation of Chávez 's decision to deliver subsidised heating oil to poor US communities, a move which irritated the US government.

On 7 April Brownfield travelled to a working-class neighbourhood in Caracas to hand out baseball equipment to little leaguers. Chávez supporters present at the stadium demanded he leave the game; when he did so, his four-car motorcade was followed by Chavistas hurling eggs and pounding on the vehicles.

Chávez claimed Brownfield was responsible for the attack, accusing him of "demagoguery, handing out gloves and balls […] If you keep provoking the Venezuelan people, start packing your bags because I'm going to kick you out of here." The president is a big fan of baseball but has been deterred from attending games for the last couple of years after he was subjected to booing by the crowds on numerous occasions.

A spokeswoman at the US embassy said the ambassador would continue to travel in Venezuela and would not be intimidated.

Published in Andean
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