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Montevideo, October 17th 2018 - 20:42 UTC

Peruvian president offers resignation to Congress ahead of an impeachment vote

Wednesday, March 21st 2018 - 20:27 UTC
Full article 3 comments
Kuczynski's resignation follows the shock revelation of several of the president's allies caught allegedly trying to buy a lawmaker to block the impeachment. Kuczynski's resignation follows the shock revelation of several of the president's allies caught allegedly trying to buy a lawmaker to block the impeachment.
If congress accepts the resignation, power would transfer to Vice President Martin Vizcarra, who is serving as Peru's ambassador to Canada. If congress accepts the resignation, power would transfer to Vice President Martin Vizcarra, who is serving as Peru's ambassador to Canada.
The videos deepened a bitter political crisis playing out just three weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Peru for a regional summit. The videos deepened a bitter political crisis playing out just three weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Peru for a regional summit.

Embattled President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has offered his resignation to Peru's congress ahead of a scheduled vote on whether to impeach the former Wall Street investor on corruption charges, according to a presidential aide. If congress accepts the resignation, power would transfer to Vice President Martin Vizcarra, who is serving as Peru's ambassador to Canada.

 Pressure has been building on Kuczynski to resign after the shock revelation on Tuesday of secretly-shot videos in which several of the president's allies were caught allegedly trying to buy the support of a lawmaker to block the conservative leader's impeachment.

The videos deepened a bitter political crisis playing out just three weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Peru for a regional summit.

The videos presented by the main opposition party purportedly show attempts by Kuczynski's lawyer, a government official, and the son of former strongman Alberto Fujimori, trying to convince the lawmaker to back the president in exchange for a hand in state contracts in his district.

Kenji Fujimori led a group of rebellious lawmakers in December who defied his sister Keiko's leadership of the Popular Force party to narrowly block Kuczynski's removal. Days later, Kuczynski pardoned the feuding siblings' father from a 25-year jail sentence for human rights abuses committed during his decade-long presidency.

A new impeachment vote is scheduled to take place on Thursday and Kuczynski had once again been scrambling for support — a task made harder by the release of the videos, which fueled calls from some of Kuczynski's allies and members of his cabinet for the president to immediately resign.

“What we've seen in the videos is embarrassing,” Congressman Salvador Heresi, one of a handful belonging to Kuczynski's party, said on Twitter, threatening to join the opposition and vote for impeachment if Kuczynski didn't resign.
Keiko Fujimori, who has publicly distanced herself from her father, accused Kuczynski of orchestrating the alleged vote-buying scheme. On Twitter she regretted her younger brother's appearance in one of the videos, which she said harkened back to “practices that have caused so much damage to Peru and our family.”

She was alluding to her father's longtime spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who was known to secretly record himself paying cash bribes to media moguls, military officers and politicians in efforts to gain leverage over potential rivals and boost his almost unlimited power.

The videos released Tuesday portray the president's allies trying to lure lawmaker Moises Mamani to their side with promises of lucrative contracts.

In one exchange, Freddy Aragon, the head of the government agency regulating firearms, tells Mamani that he stands to pocket 5 percent of future public works projects authorized by the executive branch in his district. In another, Kuczynski's lawyer hands the waffling lawmaker the transportation minister's cell phone.

“Those who've voted in favor of impeachment have all the doors closed to them,” Kenji Fujimori tells Mamani in one of the recordings.

Following the release of the videos, the government fired Aragon, dismissing his apparent misconduct as that of a low-ranking official.

“The government doesn't buy people in Congress. That's impossible,” said Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz, adding that Kuczynski's removal would be a humiliating blow for Peru's international reputation as it prepares to host Trump and regional leaders for the Summit of the Americas. “It's true that everyone knocks on our door, they call and they even send us messages about their pet projects. But that's a common practice because they are representing their districts.”

Kenji Fujimori said the tapes had been heavily edited to obscure the truth, and lashed out at his sister for “acting like a delinquent” in allegedly ordering the recording of his private conversations. Amid all of the political intrigue, Peru's chief prosecutor said he would open a criminal probe into the videos.

Kuczynski is accused of lying as president about US$782,000 in payments his consulting firm received a decade earlier from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Odebrecht is at the center of Latin America's biggest graft scandal, having admitted to paying some US$800 million in bribes to officials across Latin America, including US$29 million to politicians in Peru.

The release of the videos came the same day as Kenji Fujimori announced he will start a new political party to compete in 2021 presidential elections.

Top Comments

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  • DemonTree

    Wow, I wasn't expecting that.

    Enrique Massot, I'd like to know your opinion on this, since you have claimed several times that the corruption investigations are solely aimed at the Latin American left.

    Mar 21st, 2018 - 10:21 pm 0
  • Enrique Massot

    @DT

    Yes, that's surprising and welcome news.

    Accusations of corruption in Latin America have chiefly been used by conservative powers to oust elected governments with left or centre-left leanings--that's a fact.

    It is also a fact that corruption has been endemic in Latin America, and has only in recent years been brought to the forefront.

    The use of both proven and unproven corruption allegations reduced the electoral chances of Kirchnerist candidate Daniel Scioli in 2015 in Argentina, and allowed conservative powers to remove president Dilma Rousseff from office in Brazil.

    Now, the debate around corruption may bring something new to the political arena in Latin America. Seeing that corruption can in fact be prosecuted may make the public more alert about it, abandoning the previous attitude that corruption was an inevitable fact of life.

    Electors may become more alert and less tolerant of corrupt candidates and government officials--of any side of the political spectrum.

    Whether this is what's happening in Peru right now is to early to say at least for me, because of the multiple interests at play. In Brazil, although corruption seems to be present in all sides, for now it appears to mainly hurt Lula da Silva's electoral chances. In Argentina, there are currently numerous denunciations against president Macri and members of his government that for now are kept in the backburner and silenced by the dominant media, but it's everybody's guess what may happen tomorrow. Only one case of alleged conflict of interests saw the Macri government forgive a $296m debt owed to the state in concept of Argentina's postal service fees owned by the Macri family.

    In any event, it would be poetic justice if corruption were to be significantly reduced in Latin America as a consequence of what in the beginning was just a way of ejecting “undesirables” from government.

    Mar 22nd, 2018 - 05:40 pm 0
  • DemonTree

    @EM
    Thanks for your reply.

    More knowledge of what goes on in politics will probably be beneficial in the end, even if the laws are being applied unevenly at the moment. I suspect those politicians who thought they could use the law against their opponents will find that once the cat is out of the bag, it is hard to get it back in again.

    After Macri's government is out of power, the cases against him and his ministers may start progressing. That's certainly not how it should work, but as you say, electors are more aware of it now and hopefully things will start to change.

    Mar 23rd, 2018 - 09:56 pm 0
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