Peru Congress gives new premier Yehude Simon’s six-part plan vote of confidence

Peru’s Congress gave premier Yehude Simon’s six-part plan a vote of confidence Friday, after a five-hour long debate. Simon’s plan, which includes fighting corruption, pushing forward with decentralization, improving citizen saftey and preparing Peru ahead of the global financial crsis, was approved 62 to 16, with 10 abstentions.

After Simon’s presentation, congressmen opened the debate and turned in their decision five hours later, very early Friday morning.

President Alan García appointed his new Cabinet chief last month to chart a course to rebuild an administration that in a few days was seriously weakened by an oil concession kickback scandal that forced all of his government ministers to turn in their resignations.

García tapped Simon, 61, to replace Jorge del Castillo, a prominent member of his party, under pressure from both Peru’s right- and left-wing opposition to pick a political independent rather than another stalwart from the president’s ruling Aprista party.

Simon was a congressman in the 1980s for the now defunct Izquierda Unida, and later a founder of Patria Libre. He was accused in 1992 during President Alberto Fujimori’s authoritian government of justifying terrorism and was convicted to 20 years in prison. Amnesty International and local human rights groups worked in his defense and he was released after 8 ½ years with a pardon granted by transitional President Valentín Paniagua.

Although not ideal, the pardon was the legal instrument used by the transitional government to obtain a speedy release for more than 300 prisoners who had been unjustly charged and sentenced by draconian military courts between 1990 and 2000. Later, then-President Alejandro Toledo offered a public apology to Simon for the grave injustice. In 2002, Simon was elected regional president of Peru’s northern Lambayeque Department, once an Aprista stronghold, and he was reelected in 2006.

Simon has said that he would push for multiparty representation in the new Cabinet and expressed a willingness to reach out to Peru’s entire ideological spectrum in an attempt to bridge the usually bare-knuckled and vicious political divide.

“This is the beginning of a new era of transparency and of battle against corruption,” Simon when García swore in his new Cabinet in October.

Simon’s six-point plan

POINT 1: Fighting Corruption

“A direct and head-on battle against corruption will be my principal objective,” said Simon in his address to Congress. “The fight against corruption cannot be considered the flavor of the day, it’s not a fashionable issue, it’s a serious issue that must become a government policy.”

POINT 2: The Economy

Simon hopes to take advantage of the global financial crisis by converting Peru into a shelter for foreign capital. Agroindustrial, mining, energy, fishing and tourism projects are to be strongly encouraged.

“Peru has all the natural and human conditions to become the star in this part of the continent,” said Simon.

POINT 3: Health Care

Simon’s aims include universal coverage and quality medical attention for all Peruvians, reduction of maternal and infant mortality as well as reducing chronic malnutrition in areas of extreme poverty.

“This is the agreement reached by all political parties,” said Simon. “Universal coverage and quality medical attention for all Peruvians.”

POINT 4: Security

Additional human and economic resources will be dedicated to Peru’s provinces and districts, where “police are absent,” said Simon. Criminal investigation, public safety and fighting against delinquents and gangs are priorities.

POINT 5: Social Conflict

With the help of the Ministry of Interior, said Simon, a national intelligence plan is being devised to prevent social conflicts in Peru.

Police intervention will be carried out with complete respect for human rights, Simon added, “but we will restore the principle of authority. It will not be used as a means of repression, but as a policy of prevention.”

Point 6: Fighting Terrorism

The fight against terrorism in the Apurimac-Ene valley in Ayacucho has been stepped up since September, said Simon.

“For a long time the government has been accused of being indifferent about the suffering of victims of political violence,” said Simon. “In our administration we want to fully and strictly comply with Law 28592, which created the Integrated Reparation Plan and makes effective the restitution to victims of political violence,” for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the internal armed conflict that raged in Peru between 1980 and 2000.

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