Opinion: From Hero to Villain

By Carlos Basombrio for Peru.21

What Benedicto Jiménez did is very serious. First El Comercio and now Caretas have found that he passed on classified information about a high-profile narcotics case to the person under investigation, from his very own computer at the counter-terrorism police headquarters. He “ratted out”, as they say, his own police colleagues. The officers were stalked and their deaths were not a coincidence.

The task of state attorneys and judges is to determine what crimes were committed. The task of psychologists is to explain why a man who had assured his place in history, with his role in the capture of [Shining Path terrorist leader] Abimael Guzmán, could link his name to that of someone so evil. What is clear for now is that with these emails Jiménez put an end, abruptly and tragically, to his career in public life.

But the issue also has political resonances. Jiménez was a candidate for APRA [President Garcia’s party]; first for congress, then for becoming mayor of
Lima. He was supported to the very end, despite the folklore aspects of his campaign.

And, worse still, this comes after the man known as “El Sheriff” [Jiménez] confessed that he stored secretly filmed videos at the counter-terrorism headquarters, videos that he claimed contained evidence to compromise Ketín Vidal and that would serve as a weapon to protect his career. Despite this incredible revelation, the government put him in charge of the prison service, and who knows whether he might have become minister for the interior if this last scandal had not blown up.

The government did not even react after finding out about the emails. Rather, Jiménez received the endorsement of the President and the Prime Minister. It is true that Del Castillo [Prime Minister] said that, were the allegations proved, “it would be treachery against agents of the forces of order who fight against drug trafficking”.

But he immediately called the accusations into question: “It would be naïve for anyone to send a compromising email in his own name or with an obvious alias: in this case, we’d have to fire him for being a fool. A delicate gesture from the premier not to include this observation in the final supreme ruling that he signed.

[President] García went further: “This is an accusation that seems very strange to me. He is a police officer who, like all good police, must have many enemies, and it’s also possible to fake an email. We should let the investigation proceed. If it is proved that the email is genuine, then we can make decisions about the official. But nor is it good to lay into officials on the basis of unproved accusations. The press does not govern the country.” Less than twelve hours later he signed the resolution to fire Jiménez.

 It is true that the press does not govern. But, to stop it seeming that way, those who have to make decisions should make them in a timely fashion, before they are forced to by a scandal. In this case, that did not happen. And just as has taken place in the cases of Mazzetti and Jiménez, they keep on defending the jobs of officials who have been accused of serious wrongdoing, such as the minister for health and the chairman of Water for Everyone. Or perhaps these functionaries have season tickets?

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