Mayor of Lima suburb faces investigation for allegedly infecting municipal employees with HIV

The mayor of the Lima suburb Chosica is facing resurgent accusations that he coerced municipal employees into having sex by threatening to fire them if they refused, and that he infected at least two with HIV.

Peru’s Health Ministry on Tuesday published a resolution in the official government gazette, El Peruano, assigning State’s Attorney Fanny Freigeir to investigate the allegations against Mayor Luis Bueno Quino, who denies he is HIV-positive and rejects the sexual harassment allegations as a smear campaign by a political rival.

“We have proceeded to authorize the prosecutor, by means of a ministerial resolution, to join the ongoing preliminary investigation concerning the mayor of Chosica,” said Health Minister Hernan Garrido Lecca, “and to initiate new criminal proceedings according to article 289 of the penal code.”

Article 289 applies when people “knowingly propagate a dangerous or contagious disease” and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The investigation of Bueno was shelved by Chosica’s district attorney, Lizardo Suárez Franco, but was reopened after Peru’s largest daily newspaper, El Comercio, reported Sunday that Suárez botched the case.

The criminal allegation was filed against Bueno in December 2006 by former Chosica City Councilman Dr. Rubén León Rodriguez, who accused Bueno of knowingly infecting municipal employees with HIV by coercing them to have sex with him.

The case was first made public by Channel 9’s news show “D Day” in 2006, and then made it back into the media spotlight six months ago, when Suárez shelved the case. León then appealed Suárez’s final resolution, which allowed the case to be reopened.

“My complaint was shelved because Luis Bueno controls all of Chosica’s institutions, especially since he’s been mayor for 17 years” León told El Comercio. “Nothing happens, in spite of the fact that in the file there are declarations and evidence that incriminate him.”

In its Sunday edition, daily El Comercio recounted how it led its own investigation and came to the conclusion that Suárez “overlooked” three crucial testimonies that implicated Bueno.

León and a local Chosica journalist, Raul Vento, persuaded three witnesses, including two HIV-infected victims, to testify on camera. The video tape was included in León’s initial complaint in 2006.

“We taped them because they could later be manipulated by threats so that they wouldn’t tell the truth,” said León.

Witness No. 1: Vicky Gallegos Zúñiga

On camera, Gallegos said that she was infected by her partner, Rubén Iván Candela Cárdenas, a municipal security officer whom she alleged was coerced into having sex with Bueno.

In 2006, after taking Gallegos’ deposition, Suárez interviewed her partner, who told the district attorney that he was not infected with HIV.

But El Comercio’s investigation turned up Candela’s medical records, which showed that he was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS and was receiving specialized medical treatment since January 2004.

“In 2004, I lived with Iván Candela,” said Gallegos in comments to El Comercio. “In November, I started feeling ill and I went to a clinic in Ate Vitarte. After many tests, they told me that I had HIV. I cried a lot that day.”

Days later, she said she started treatment in the Hipolito Unanue Hospital, and there, discovered that her spouse had been undergoing the same treatment since January. She confronted him. “I approached him and asked him who infected him,” said she. “He told me that it was Mayor Luis Bueno. ‘How could you destroy your life, and my life, your wife, by being with this man?’ I asked him. He didn’t answer and started crying. This is when we ended our relationship.”

Witness No. 2: Alfonso Rupay Velásquez

On the tape, Alfonso testified that his brother, César Antonio Rupay, died from AIDS after being infected by Bueno.

Suárez never took Alfonso’s deposition, but rather that of César’s son, César Jr., who claimed his father died of a heart attack.

Again, El Comercio’s investigation turned up César Sr.’s medical records, which showed he was diagnosed with HIV in September 2000, and died from AIDS Jan 5 2002, at the age of 43.

Witness No. 3: Martín Braga Meléndez

Braga, an ex-municipal employee who told El Comercio that he constantly receives threatening phone calls on his cell phone, testified on camera that he was fired after he refused to have sex with the mayor. He also testified that Bueno coerced many employees and stated their names.

Braga’s deposition was never taken by Suárez.

Bueno was reportedly cleared of the allegations after he gave Suárez a “good health” certificate, issued by Chosica’s ROE medical laboratory.

But El Comercio reported that the certificate, which indicates that Bueno tested negative for HIV, was not authenticated by the lab, nor was it confirmed that Bueno, rather than another individual, took the blood test.

On Nov. 12, 2006, Channel 9’s “D Day” journalist Augusto Thorndike proposed Bueno undergo a public blood test to put an end to the accusations.

“No, first because I am scared of needles,” replied Bueno, “and second because so far not a single person has said that I contaminated them.”

But three days after the televised interview, Bueno appeared on Channel 5’s “24 hours” news program to exhibit the ROE lab certificate that he later handed over to Suárez.

He was accompanied by Rupay’s son, who also flashed a certificate, purportedly showing that his father had died from cardiac arrest and not AIDS.

“To clear all doubt,” León told El Comercio, “Bueno should undergo a public test. It’s probable that a healthy person supplanted Bueno for the exam that was done in the ROE laboratory.”

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