Peru’s defense and interior ministers resigned Thursday as Congress prepared a motion to censure the government for a military operation that resulted in the deaths of 10 soldiers and police, the office of the Cabinet chief said.
Alberto Otarola and Daniel Lozada presented their resignations to Vice President Marisol Espinoza, as head of state is currently on a official visit to Japan and South Korea,
Ten police and troops died in Peru’s southern jungles during a massive deployment to find and rescue 36 kidnapped gas-industry workers who were ultimately freed unharmed by their captors, a leftist armed group.
The deaths spurred Congress to draft a censure motion, while Cabinet chief Oscar Valdes has publicly offered to resign.
Otarola told a press conference he hopes his departure “will calm the tense political atmosphere” and said that Peru’s goal must be to successfully confront what he described as narco-terrorism.
The group that seized the gas workers was a “renegade faction of Shining Path,” the erstwhile defense minister said, referring to remnants of the once-fearsome Maoist insurgency that wrought havoc in Peru during the 1980s.
“Shining Path has mutated into a form that is more perverse and localized in the rugged sector,” Otarola said of the armed factions operating in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, known as the VRAE.
Opposition politicians have a right to criticize him for the police and military fatalities in the VRAE, he said, wishing his successor “the best of successes.”
Responsibility for the abduction of the gas workers was claimed by a group calling itself the “militarized Communist Party of Peru” and disavowing any affinity with the Shining Path and its former leaders.
Shining Path launched its insurgency on May 17, 1980, with an attack on Chuschi, a small town in the southern province of Ayacucho.
A 2003 truth commission blamed the Shining Path for most of the nearly 70,000 deaths the panel ascribed to politically motivated violence during the two decades following the group’s 1980 uprising.
Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that marked the effective end of the insurgency.