LIMA, Peru – A Peruvian judge ordered the arrest Thursday of a regional governor on murder charges in the March gangland-style slaying of a political rival who had accused him of running a corrupt, violent mini-dictatorship in a rich mining state.
Gov. Cesar Alvarez is wanted in the March 14 murder of former Ancash state lawmaker Ezequiel Nolasco, who was felled by five bullets when he stopped for a beer on his way home to the northern coastal city of Chimbote from Lima.
Nolaso's death finally spurred national authorities to action in Ancash, a state enriched by copper- and gold-mining royalties that Alvarez allegedly ruled through bribes and intimidation by hired thugs.
Alvarez's whereabouts were not immediately known. He denied any involvement in Nolasco's death in an interview last month with The Associated Press, saying political rivals must be to blame.
The judicial press office said in a statement that Judge Marco Tejada issued a total of 29 arrest warrants associated with the Nolasco killing. Nineteen were accused of aggravated murder, the rest of criminal conspiracy.
The accused include a big-city mayor, police, journalists, Alvarez's press secretary and the construction union boss who forced Nolasco out of the union leadership.
A total of 30 Lima-based prosecutors accompanied by elite police fanned out Thursday in Ancash, principally in Chimbote where Alvarez lives, to make the arrests. Local news reports said at least 10 had been arrested by dusk.
Calls to the cellphones of two spokespeople for Alvarez went unanswered. One of them told the newspaper El Comercio that Alvarez had no intention of becoming a fugitive.
Nolasco had survived a 2010 assassination attempt that he blamed on Alvarez in which his 24-year-old stepson was killed.
He subsequently devoted his life to trying to expose rampant corruption in Ancash that officials say Alvarez managed to keep under wraps by buying out or threatening local judges and prosecutors.
The Interior Ministry says hired killers were responsible for nearly 40 percent of the more than 100 murders in Ancash last year. Not one has been solved.
The nation's chief anti-corruption public prosecutor, Christian Salas, had been trying to get Alvarez arrested for the alleged embezzlement of millions.
Associated Press writer Franklin Briceno contributed to this report.