Interior Minister Daniel Urresti, already under investigation for a death 30 years ago, is now facing another charge that he was responsible more recently for the death of an informal miner, who was killed during a police operation to stop unregulated mining, daily La Republica reported.
Two individuals–Luis Otzuka Salazar and Gabriel Laura Pizarro– filed a complaint accusing Urresti of manslaughter in the death of Americo Laura Pizarro, a 48-year-old informal miner who was killed by a police bullet during a protest in April in the town of Mazuco, in Inambari, located in the region of Madre de Dios.
At the time, Urresti was the chief of the Peruvian government’s office responsible for ending informal mining. He carried out several operations against illegal miners during his time in the post, operations that included arrests and the destruction of mining camps and machinery.
The informal miners allege that Urresti “was responsible for the violence unleashed by the police, because the orders were given by him.”
Urresti acknowledged that the complaint exists, but called it “crazy” as he was in his office in Lima at the time of the incident.
“This has no support. It is crazy to say that I am responsible for the death of a person who was in Madre de Dios while I was working in my office in Lima,” he said.
New Appointment Questioned
Last week, the official gazette El Peruano published the appointment to the Interior Ministry of a a retired Col. Juan Alberto Bertetti, to be a top-ranking advisor to the minister. The appointment is being questioned by human rights groups because Bertetti was commander of the La Polvora barracks in Lima in 1992 when he and a Lieut. Col. Miranda gave the order to provide police support to Major Martin Rivas for an anti-terrorist operation.
The operation led by Rivas and his Colina Group “death squad” was the arrest of nine university students and a professor at the teaching university in La Cantuta, Chosica, just east of Lima. The students and professor, suspected of being involved with the Tarata bombing in Miraflores a day earlier (which killed 25 people), were taken from the university dorms at 3am and tortured before being killed, their bodies later burned and buried, both near the Central Highway east of Lima and between hills on the road south to Cieneguilla. Bertetti was never tried but he was mentioned in the trial against former President Alberto Fujimori in 2009.
In March this year, Bertetti worked with Minister Urresti in the planning for the interdiction and arrests against the illegal mining operations in Madre de Dios.
Urresti took over the Interior ministry towards the end of June.
Days after his appointment, he came under pressure when it was revealed that he is being investigated for possibly being involved in the 1988 murder of a Peruvian journalist in the region of Ayacucho during the height of the state’s conflict with the Shining Path.
Urresti, a retired military general, was the chief of intelligence at an army base in Huanta, Ayacucho during the murder. One of two military officers who was found guilty of killing the reporter said that Urresti led a military patrol that ambushed and killed the correspondent.
Urresti has denied any wrongdoing, but opposition politicians, journalist groups and human rights organizations have all called for him to resign in order to ensure a fair investigation. He has said he won’t step down.
President Ollanta Humala, also a former military officer, and his wife, First Lady Nadine Heredia, have both publicly supported Urresti.