Garcia appoints presidential secretary to cabinet in controversial move

Luis Nava. Source: El Comercio

President Alan Garcia has appointed his presidential secretary, Luis Nava, as Peru’s new Production Minister in a cabinet shuffle just two months before the end of his term in office.

Nava replaces Jorge Villasante, who has become the Agriculture Minister following the resignation of Rafael Quevedo from that post.   The appointments were made suddenly Friday with no prior warning.

Quevedo resigned following a controversy over regulations to govern the entry to Peru of genetically modified seeds, and allegations that he is a board member of a company that uses GM foods. He was also against a 15-year moratorium on GM seeds that is being proposed by Congress. 

Quevedo denied the accusations in an interview with Radioprogramas saying that he left the board of company El Rocio last September when he was appointed to the cabinet.  His outside advisors to the ministry, however, included two people promoting biotechnology and allegedly linked directly or indirectly to U.S.-based Monsanto, the world’s leading producer of genetically engineered seeds.   

But the more commented appointment was that of Nava, which does not come without controversy and has some political opponents speculating that his posting is an attempt to block him from facing charges over his role in an oil concession kickback scandal known as “Petrogate.”

Under Peruvian law, ministers are provided amnesty for five years after they leave office, according to daily Peru.21.

“A designation of this type, two and a half months from leaving power, seems to be more directed at giving the amnesty benefit to Nava,” Congressman Carlos Bruce of the Peru Posible party said. “They have a dirty conscience. [Garcia’s Aprista party] is preparing for all of the upcoming trials.”

But that cannot be the case, say center-right PPC party members of Congress, Javier Bedoya and Raúl Castro, who point out that the cabinet amnesty is only applicable to alleged crimes or errors committed while in office and not prior to that period.    

Congressman Daniel Abugattas, the leading spokesman in Ollanta Humala’s presidential campaign and the head of the congressional investigation into the petro-audio case, believes the sudden appointment of Nava to the Ministry of Production has more to do with the benefits in the ministry itself  — the industrial fishing permits and quotas “are the most prized treasure in that ministry…and they move millions,” he said. 

Petrogate was perhaps the most notorious corruption case during Garcia’s second administration (2006-11).

The discovery of backroom dealings between the president of Petroperu and private entrepreneurs to grant oil exploration concessions forced a major Cabinet shuffle and the resignation of then cabinet chief, Jorge del Castillo. Two major players were arrested.

In addition to Del Castillo, allegations of corruption on the recordings also reached Nava and former Housing minister Hernan Garrido Lecca.

The formal Petrogate hearings begin this week in court, and the trial is expected to begin within the next month.

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