Congress Aims to Decide on Ombudsman Head on Tuesday

Peru’s legislators hope to decide Tuesday who they will choose to lead the country’s national ombudsman’s office, the Defensoria del Pueblo, according to Congressman Michael Urtecho.

The appointment of the Defensor del Pueblo is long overdue, as lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement on whom to appoint. Other pending appointments by Congress include one remaining members of the Central Reserve Bank of Peru’s board of directors, and judges to sit on the Constitutional Tribunal, the country’s highest court.

“This isn’t easy, I hope that on Tuesday we have a definitive and final meeting,” state news agency Andina reported Urtecho saying. “If on Tuesday we don’t have an agreement, unfortunately it’s not going to happen in this legislature,” he added.

Daniel Abugattas of the governing Gana Peru party, and president of Congress last year, admits he finds it embarrassing that he failed to push through the selection and appointment of the Public Ombudsman. He does, however, blame the pro-Fujimori Fuerza Popular and the Apra parties of blocking several attempts to reach a consensus.

The acting ombudsman is Eduardo Vega, the former deputy ombudsman who has served 15 years in the institution and who took on the leadership when Beatriz Merino resigned in March 2011.  Merino resigned when, after two or three months, Congress had still failed to either renew her term or chose anyone else, and she recommended that Vega be appointed.

The selection of the People’s Ombudsman is a thorny issue, since most politicians are unhappy if the ombudsman does the job properly.

“As far as I know, Congress is trying to elect one of their own friends,” said Antonio Maldonado, a former state prosecutor in the anti-corruption court.   Maldonado said that the process is not transparent and that no information has been made public on the candidates and their careers in the defense and protection of human rights.

The inaction in making the appointments reflects the division in Congress, where no party holds a majority. It also reflects the weakness of some Peruvian institutions, and highlights why many Peruvians have little confidence in lawmakers.

Urtecho, an opposition Congressman for the Solidaridad Nacional party, said it would be “disastrous” for Congress’ image if lawmakers do not reach an agreement for the Defensoria del Pueblo before they break in early July.

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