Peru’s FM resigns over comments regarding Navy’s involvement in bomb attacks in the 1970s
Peru’s Foreign Minister Héctor Béjar Tuesday handed in his resignation to President Pedro Castillo, which was accepted. “I am free again!” posted the departing official on social media.
The 85-year-old and highly controversial Béjar lasted less than three weeks in office. His past as a leftwing revolutionary in the 1970s drew too much criticism for the newly-inaugurated administration of a President who had won the June 6 runoff against the conservative Keiko Fujimori with slightly over 50% of the votes. In practice, nearly half of Peruvian voters disapproved of him even before he had taken the oath of office.
“Mr Héctor Béjar submitted today to the President of the Republic, Pedro Castillo, his irrevocable resignation letter from the post of Minister of State in the Foreign Relations portfolio. Along these lines, the head of state accepted the resignation of Mr Béjar Rivera,” according to an official statement from the Secretariat of Strategic Communication and Press.
Béjar was pushed to resign after the dissemination of statements he gave about terrorism and the Peruvian Navy, which not only unleashed criticism from the opposition in Congress but also caused the Navy’s Directorate of Information of Navy to categorically reject the claims of the now-departed official.
On November 24, 2020, in a virtual conference with the leftist Grupo Emancipador Peru, Béjar had said that “terrorism in Peru was initiated by the Navy, that can be demonstrated historically, they have been trained for that by the CIA (the United States Central Intelligence Agency).”
He had also mentioned that the Shining Path guerrilla group has been largely the work of the CIA and the intelligence services. These statements were resurfaced by a TV show last weekend.
We deplore statements of this nature, which seek to distort the history of national pacification, reaffirming the fulfilment of its constitutional mission of continuing the fight against terrorism within the current legal framework, a Navy statement read.
Former Defense Minister Nuria Esparch described Béjar’s expressions as unacceptable in that they insult the Peruvian Navy and called for an immediate rectification.”
Meanwhile, Congressman Guillermo Bermejo of the ruling Peru Libre party, who is under investigation for an alleged terrorist affiliation, sided with Béjar and blamed his departure on unfair media pressure.
Béjar allegedly resigned at the request of Prime Minister Guido Bellido, who had posted on Twitter that We will have changes for the march of the country.
Bellido’s message was celebrated as a possible announcement of the replacement by the far-right parliamentarian and former Navy chief José Cueto and other lawmakers who had criticised Béjar.
At any rate, Béjar’s dismissal is far from appeasing Peru’s government. Defense Minister Walter Ayala has reportedly called for Bellido’s resignation.
Before being appointed foreign minister, Béjar had stated that in 1975, several years before Shining Path came to operate, there was a wave of attacks then attributed to Navy Intelligence agents. Béjar mentioned, among others, the attacks with explosives on the houses of senior Navy officers and two Cuban ships, one sunk, when they were in the neighbouring port of Callao, and another against the house of the then Cuban military attaché in Lima.
As speculation mounts on who will be appointed to succeed Béjar, the departing minister explained that he had not resigned out of his own free will but that it had been requested from him, as lawmakers were already making plans for a motion of censorship, which is tantamount to a dismissal.
The former guerrilla and highly decorated scholar also explained Cuba’s Prensa Latina that “there is a group in the Navy and on the Peruvian extreme right that wants to prevent Peru from having an independent, sovereign foreign policy at all costs, that is the real reason; I represent that danger for them.”
Béjar insisted that he was fired before appearing before Congress so that he could not speak his truth. It has been a way of censoring me,” he said as he pledged to support President Castillo.