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Peru’s foreign minister resigns after suggesting former rebel group had CIA support

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People hold signs reading “Bejar Out," during a rally outside the Foreign Affairs Ministry headquarters in Lima, Peru, on August 17, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Peru’s Foreign Minister Hector Bejar has resigned under pressure after footage emerged in which he suggests that the Peruvian navy and US spy agency CIA were behind atrocities committed in the country decades ago.

President Pedro Castillo, who appointed Bejar less than three weeks ago, accepted his resignation on Tuesday.

Bejar, who fought as a leftist guerrilla in the 1960s, also suggests in the video, published by Peruvian local media, that a Maoist rebel group that killed tens of thousands of Peruvians had received support from the CIA. He says he believes the Shining Path rebel group had emerged in part because of backing from the US spy agency.

“I’m convinced, although I can’t prove it, that the Shining Path was in large part created by the CIA and (other) intelligence services,” he says in the video, which is dated last year.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Monday, describing the publication of the footage as part of a campaign of manipulation to discredit the minister.

“This systematic campaign of editing old statements and taking them out of context has the purpose of confusing the public opinion and presenting the Chancellor as offending the Armed Forces and the Peruvian Navy,” it said on Monday.

The minister’s departure now puts further pressure on the government of President Castillo, who has already come under fire for naming a cabinet that critics say is filled with inexperienced ministers. Th president will need to appoint a new foreign minister before the end of the month, when the opposition-led Congress will vote on his cabinet.

Castillo, a 51-year-old indigenous Peruvian and former school teacher, is the first president from outside the elite. The president, who won the election against right-wing Keiko Fujimori last month, is scheduled to govern the nation until 2026.

The political turmoil in the south American country has been intense in recent years, with Castillo becoming the fifth president in five years.

Castillo is facing pressure for refusing to criticize the leftist presidents of Cuba and Venezuela in his first weeks in office.

The US has maintained a harsh economic, financial, and commercial embargo against Cuba for more than 60 years. Numerous resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly have indicated that the blockade is against international law.

And Venezuela has been in relative turmoil since 2019, when a low-profile opposition figure, Juan Guaido, unilaterally declared himself “president” of the country and won immediate support from Washington. Elected President Nicolas Maduro said recently that the CIA and the American military had masterminded a plot to assassinate him.

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