Interior Minister Walter Alban has sent a special police force to the coastal city of Huacho to investigate the assassination of a local politician who was seen as a possible candidate for the upcoming regional elections.
Alban said in comments to state news agency Andina that the police will carry out a thorough investigation of the murder, which occurred last Friday. He also said that the police aim to “return the calm” to citizens over concerns about crime.
On Friday, Ezequiel Nolasco was gunned down just before midnight in Huacho, on the coast north of Lima in the region of Ancash, by an individual that witnesses say was younger than 20 years old. Nolasco and his driver and lawyer were en route back to Chimbote from Lima. Officials have said in local media that they believe the crime was politically motivated.
Nolasco, 55, had previously worked as a regional adviser and was to officially announce his plans to run for president of Ancash region this week, under the Union por el Peru ticket.
“Ezequiel Nolasco had denounced many times that he was the victim of death threats, but the police and prosecutors didn’t listen to him,” said Armando Mejia, a spokesman for the Union por el Peru party in Ancash. “Today, when he was going to be our regional candidate, they killed him in the most cruel way.”
“No one can say that Ezequiel was killed in an assault,” said former Congressman Helvecia Balta Salzar. “His death was politically motivated.”
The president of the Ancash region, Cesar Alvarez, has denied allegations that he had anything to do with his political rival’s death. Other Nolasco supporters suspect the provincial mayor of Santa, Luis Arroyo, who was suspected of being involved in a 2010 attempt on Nolasco’s life.
“All those who are in opposition to Cesar Alvarez land up dead or fired, which is what has happened to the prosecutors and justices who initiated investigations into cases of corruption,” the secretary general of the region’s civil construction union, Vicente Aponte, told Canal N TV.
This was not the first attempt on Nolasco’s life, nor on Ancash authorities. In 2010, an assassination attempt on Nolasco was unsuccessful but his 24-year-old son-in-law, Roberto Torres, died from a shot in the head as the attackers entered Nolasco’s home while the family was having dinner.
At the time, Nolasco was expected to succeed the previous acting regional president, Jose Luis Sanchez, who had been assassinated in Trujillo only a week earlier. Sanchez was acting regional president while Cesar Alvarez resigned temporarily in order to campaign for reelection. Last year, a key witness in the investigation of the Nolasco attack and the companion of one of the attackers, Hilda Saldarriaga, was shot dead with seven bullets while asleep. Both Nolasco and Sanchez were demanding the annulment of regional contracts signed by Alvarez for a total of S/.840 million.
Several regional and municipal authorities in the provinces have been targets of assassination in recent years, in power and corruption struggles.