Peruvian president avoids impeachment over corruption scandal
Opposition recently revealed documents linking Pedro Pablo Kuczynksi to Brazilian construction giant
Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski defied ardent calls by opposition lawmakers demanding his impeachment over ties to the Brazilian construction giant implicated in Latin America's biggest corruption scandal in a late Thursday night vote that his proponents hailed as a triumph for the nation's democracy.
Legislators came eight votes short of impeaching the president following a half-day of impassioned debate in the wood-panelled chamber where the 79-year-old former Wall Street banker himself delivered a forceful defence.
Applause erupted inside Congress and his supporters cheered and waved Peruvian flags outside as it became clear Kuczynski would remain president.
"Tomorrow a new chapter in our history begins: the reconciliation and reconstruction of our country," Kuczynski tweeted afterward.
The impeachment effort was the latest chapter in the Odebrecht bribery scandal that has ended the careers of some of Latin America's most prominent politicians. The company admitted in a 2016 U.S. Justice Department agreement to paying nearly $800 million US in kickbacks to politicians, their campaigns and political parties to secure lucrative public works contracts.
In Ecuador, Vice-President Jorge Glas has been sentenced to six years in prison for orchestrating an Odebrecht bribery scheme. Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is appealing his conviction on charges of corruption and money laundering related to the plot. In Peru, two former presidents stand accused of accepting money from Odebrecht. One is behind bars and the other in the U.S. seeking to avoid extradition.
- Peru launches impeachment process against president
- Brazil's President Michel Temer rejects calls to resign amid bribery allegations
Kuczynski came under fire after an opposition-led investigative committee revealed documents last week showing Odebrecht made $782,000 US in payments to his private consulting firm more than a decade ago. Some of the payments overlapped with years that Kuczynski spent as a high-ranking government minister.
During his 30-minute testimony Thursday, Kuczynski showed the contracts in question on an overhead screen, pointing out that none contained his signature. He said he had no knowledge of the payments and that he never favoured any company while in office. He characterized the transactions as part of a legal contract between two private companies and said his opponents were trying to force him from power without due process.
"I am here to look you in the eye, and tell you that I am not corrupt and I have not lied," he said, speaking slowly and assertively.
The vote capped a tumultuous eight days in Peru, which is one of South America's most politically volatile nations.
Analysts worried that impeachment could usher in a new period of uncertainty for Peru, an economic bright spot in Latin America that throughout its recent history has vacillated between short spans of democracy and autocratic rule.