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Peru: Ex-Minister Asked US Embassy to Help Contain Opponent's Presidential Campaign

This post is part of our special coverage WikiLeaks and the World.

As reported earlier, on February 19th Spanish newspaper El Pais [es] released a cable stating that “Fernando Rospigliosi, former Minister of the Interior in the government of Alejandro Toledo, asked the assistance of the United States Embassy to carry a campaign against Ollanta Humala.” Peruvian media quickly rebounded the news that rocked the local political environment.

But the existence of this cable was rumored a few days before. On the 15th, the U.S. ambassador in Peru, Rose M. Likins, and Humala talked [es] about it; the latter denounced [es] it as an usurpation of Peruvian democracy. It should be noted that the embassy rejected the claim.

On Saturday 19th, when the cable was released, former President Toledo was quick to declare [es] that he had nothing to do with that meeting, and one of his closest colleagues, Charles Bruce, said [es] that when the Rospigliosi meeting took place, he was not a part of Toledo’s government. Ollanta Humala meanwhile harshly criticized both former Minister Rospigliosi [es] and former President Toledo [es]. Rospigliosi accepted the veracity of the cable and said [es] it was a personal choice because he thought Humala was a danger to democracy.

The cable was translated into Spanish [es] by blogger Carlos Quiroz. In Storify you can see a list [es] of some tweets in the aftermath of the publication.

Reactions in blogs also emerged, mainly focused to the appropriateness of requesting to foreign help in domestic affairs. Herbert Castro wrote [es] in his blog that these facts are nothing but treason and adds his opinion on who would stand to benefit:

No pues. Así no se juega. Rospi, Tienes que reconocer que quedaste como una zapatilla y lo único que te queda es pedirles disculpas, tanto a Ollanta como a la opinión pública, a la que te debes como periodista. […] Ahora sí Humala tendrá suficientes razones para gritar en calles y plazas lo sucio que le jugaron. Y tú como periodista lo sabes, la víctima siempre saca dividendos.

No. This is not how one plays. Rospi[gliosi], you have to acknowledge that you now look like a fool and the only thing you can do is to apologize, both to Ollanta and to the public, which as a journalist you have a duty to do. […] Now Humala will be right in crying in the streets and plazas how others play dirty. And you as a journalist know that the victim always gets dividends.
In a post [es] in the blog Alternative Signal, Carlos Tapia agrees that Rospigliosi allowed Toledo to go free of responsibility and writes about the real motives of the conversation with representatives of the embassy:

Habría que recordar que la versión de Rospigliosi que “no veía a Toledo desde el 2004” contrasta con su inicial aparición pública como parte del actual equipo de campaña de Toledo-aunque renunciara después, a lo mejor por lo que todos sospechamos-; también que Rubén Vargas, el acompañante de Rospigliosi en la embajada, sea ahora miembro de la Comisión de Plan de Gobierno de Toledo. En fin, las sospechas Rospigliosi-Toledo continuarán por buen tiempo. Aunque hay otra versión, la que dice que Rospigliosi-Vargas iban a informar y aconsejar a la embajada por el vil dinero de una consultoría.

It should be recalled that Rospigliosi’s version that “he had not seen Toledo since 2004 ” contrasts with his initial public appearance as part of the campaign team, even though he resigned afterwards, though maybe for the same reason as we all suspect. ” Also note that Ruben Vargas, Rospigliosi's companion at the embassy, is a member of the Committee on Toledo’s Government Plan. Finally, suspicions about Rospigliosi-Toledo will continue for some time. Although there is another version, namely that Rospigliosi-Vargas would inform and advise the embassy for a fee of consultancy.

Journalist Raul Wiener also discusses [es] in his blog the reasons for the now notorious conversation:

Toledo se propuso crear una crisis internacional en relación a las elecciones peruanas, en las que interviniera Estados Unidos y por supuesto soltara dinero, como lo hizo en la crisis del 2000, de lo que Toledo nunca dio cuentas. Rospigliosi no fue a una de sus tantísimas reuniones de asesoría a los gringos en las cosas en las que dice ser especialista, sino a tratar sobre cooperación de gobiernos en una campaña electoral dentro del Perú.

Toledo set out to create an international crisis in relation to the Peruvian elections hoping the United States would intervene and give financial aid, as it did in the 2000 crisis, of which Toledo was never accounted for. Rospigliosi did not go to one of the many advice sessions for the Americans as a specialist, but to ask for help in a Peruvian campaign election.

In the blog Ideeleradio there is a transcript [es] of an interview with Alberto Adrianzen, congressional candidate for Humala, in which, among other things, he speaks about how the media is covering the issue:

Acá hay un proceso mediático, por ejemplo, El Comercio [hoy] pone ‘Asesor de Humala intercedió por él ante embajador de EE.UU.’ y se refiere a Salomón Lerner Ghitis. Lo pone en letras de molde grande y [ayer] puso lo de [Fernando] Rospigliosi, una tira y abajo, [pone] esto que es 200 mil veces menor de lo que hizo Rospigliosi. Lo que diga Lerner al embajador americano, de que Humala es honesto, razonable, es distinto a una contracampaña contra Ollanta Humala. Me parece francamente poco ético de El Comercio”

Here we see the media at work, for example, El Comercio [today] says Humala’s advisor interceded for him with the U.S. ambassador and refers him to Salomon Lerner Ghitis. They wrote it in big block letters and [yesterday] they wrote about [Fernando] Rospigliosi, they [wrote] this is that 200 thousand times less than what Rospigliosi did. Whatever Lerner says to the American Ambassador, that Humala is honest, reasonable, is different from a counter-campaign against Ollanta Humala. Frankly I think El Comercio is not being very ethical [about this]”

At the other end, Raul Mendoza Canepa says that [es] Rospigliosi has been consistent with what he always preaches and branded those who accuse him as “Pharisees.”

A Rospigliosi dos funcionarios gringos lo invitan a almorzar y como en todo almuerzo informal, el ex ministro del Interior transmitió (como lo hubiera hecho José, Juan o Jorge) su crispación frente a los avances del nacionalista […] Hay que aclarar que pedirle ayuda a una embajada en una mesa informal para que arremeta contra un candidato, por más peligroso que sea éste, es tan reprobable como auparse a Chávez o recibir petrodólares caribeños para ganar una elección. Pero, de allí a fusilarlo o endilgarle el calificativo de “traidor” ya es un exceso. […] Bien harían los guerreros de uno y otro lado en calmar sus aguas y eludir el epíteto y el sablazo. Aunque este llamado no me exima de decir: “El fariseismo, toda una institución nacional”.
Two American officials invited Rospigliosi to lunch and as in any informal lunch, the former minister of the interior (as would have Joe, Jack or George) declared suspicion against the advances of the nationalist candidate […] we should be clear that asking for help from an embassy in an informal manner to go against a candidate, as dangerous as it may be, is as reprehensible as to befriend Chavez or to receive Caribbean petrodollars to win an election. But, from there to shoot him or to label him a “traitor” is overkill. […]Warriors on both sides of the isle would do well in calming the waters and avoiding the epithet and the saber. Although this appeal does not exempt me from saying: “Phariseeism, a national institution.”

As expected, it is on TV where space is given to Rospigliosi to explain and give his version of what happened, as seen in this interview [es] on “Prensa Libre.” But on the other hand, in an interview at Canal N [es] he did not fare so well. La Republica newspaper conducted a survey on the subject, “55% believes that Rospigliosi was right to ask the U.S. Embassy to help stop Humala, while 45% believe the contrary.” Interestingly, in an article [es] in the same newspaper, where Rospigliosi wrote to justify his actions, and where Humala is accused of distorting and manipulating the cable to use it for his own convenience, the vast majority of comments from readers reject the former minister’s action. In any case it seems that this will continue as a topic of conversation for a few more days, until another revelation comes to the fore.
This post is part of our special coverage WikiLeaks and the World.

Post originally published in Globalizado on February 22.

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