Peru ministers disagree and public opinion divided on HMS Montrose incident
Peruvian ministers openly disagreed over the recent decision to turn back the Royal Navy’s HMS Montrose, in solidarity with Argentina and its sovereignty claims over the Falklands/Malvinas Islands.
“At the Ministry of Defence we were in favour of the frigate visiting Peru, but the boss in these affairs is Foreign Affairs and not Defence. Relations with other countries falls under the Foreign affairs ministry”, said Defence minister Luis Alberto Otálora.
This is not the first time ministers from the administration of President Ollanta Humala openly disagree, a situation which has triggered criticisms to the head of state and his cabinet chief.
This last incident took off last Monday when the Peruvian Foreign Affairs ministry Rafael Roncagliolo unexpectedly announced it had withdrawn the authorization for HMS Montrose to call in Peru as had been originally voted in Congress, following on strong criticism from the Argentine press.
Roncagliolo decision was praised by Argentine president Cristina Fernandez but in Peru the minister was accused of putting into jeopardy the good relations with the UK and as a former minister Franciso Tudela said “exposing Peru as following the “Chavist block” in reference to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
Defence minister Otálora said Peru must keep doors open so that the UK frigate visit can take place sometime in the near future.
“The coming of the frigate has not been cancelled, it’s suspended. No county, including Argentina can question the sovereign decisions of Peru”.
Former minister Jose García Belaunde, under the previous administration of Alan Garcia, said the incident has been blown out of proportion and Peru has “the option to deny the authorization”.
Furthermore he rejected that the Argentine government can be described as belonging t the “Chavist group”.
However Garcia Belaunde admitted the issue was bundled and the authorization for the frigate’s visit should have been denied by the ministerial cabinet, which most probably would not have reached the public eye.
What Roncagliolo did was to request permission from Congress which has the last word on the presence of foreign military in Peru, but then “he changed his mind”.
Now the Peruvian congress is also upset for having been discredited.
To this must be added the minister’s contradictions who said the change had been announced to London with anticipation, something which the British embassy emphatically denies, that also reproaches the fact that Foreign minister Jeremy Browne was not informed during his visit to Lima last week.
Roncagliolo is the only really ‘left-wing’ minister in President Humala’s cabinet, and he will be summoned to congress to explain what happened, and could even face a ‘no confidence vote’.
The controversy has reached the media and social networks with those believing Peru did the right thing in supporting Argentina while others recall that Argentina has not been a loyal associate given the undercover sale of arms to Ecuador in 1995 when the border conflict between the Pacific neighbours.