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20:29, 19 December 2017

Peru President Could Be Largest Figure But to Fall in Latin America Graft Scandal

Peru President Could Be Most significant Figure Yet to Fall in Latin America Graft Scandal


LIMA, Peru — In this seaside capital, the tales of graft have been multiplying like the potholes.

There was the unfinished highway to the airport that had left a trail of indictments and protected witnesses alternatively. There was the light rail line that prosecutors say was constructed with $eight million in bribes.

Not even the statue of Christ the Redeemer standing above the ocean was untouched: It was donated as a present by the Brazilian construction giant that had doled out the bribes.

The firm, Odebrecht, has been at the center of Latin America’s most significant corruption scandal in a generation, with government officials jailed in Ecuador and Brazil and dozens under investigation in Venezuela and Colombia.

In Peru, the scandal may possibly be taking down its most significant figure however: President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Peru’s Congress is set to open impeachment proceedings against Mr. Kuczynski on charges that he improperly received $782,000 from Odebrecht through a business he owned. The president admits to receiving the money but says he did practically nothing wrong.

On Thursday, Mr. Kuczynski will have 60 minutes to defend himself ahead of the country’s Congress. His critics say they could oust him by the weekend — and that they have the votes.

It is the latest in a wave of corruption charges that has roiled the region, and seems to have signaled a turning point.

For years, several Latin Americans ruefully accepted corruption to be as inevitable as voting itself, as officials from the presidential palace to the mayor’s workplace enriched themselves from public coffers. “Roba, pero hace obras,” — “he robs, but he builds,” in Spanish — was a frequent refrain.

A protest against Keiko Fujimori, a right-wing politician who lost to Mr. Kuczynski in 2016, in Lima, this month.CreditMartin Mejia/Linked Press

Now, politicians are on the run — in some cases literally. Alejandro Toledo, who served as Peru’s president in the early 2000s, remains at large after getting indicted by prosecutors for getting accepted $20 million in payments from Odebrecht. One more former Peruvian president, Ollanta Humala, and his wife, Nadine Heredia, are in jail awaiting trial. In Ecuador, a former vice-president was sentenced to six years in jail for accepting payments.

President Kuczynski’s case, however, highlights a dilemma haunting a lot of of the investigations: How to oust politicians in governments where handful of judging them are considered any much more clean — and in some cases far much less so.

In some techniques, Mr. Kuczynski’s case echoes that of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s former president who was impeached in 2016 for getting manipulated the federal budget to conceal economic difficulties. At the time of her trial in Congress, scores of lawmakers were under investigation themselves. Her successor, Michel Temer, narrowly avoided an impeachment trial for corruption.

“As in Brazil, they’re not pursuing corruption charges to clean Peru of corruption, they’re utilizing the charges to eliminate their enemies from energy,” stated Jo-Marie Burt, a political scientist who studies Latin America at George Mason University in Virginia.

The charges against Mr. Kuczynski have been aggressively promoted by Keiko Fujimori, a correct-wing politician who lost to Mr. Kuczynski in 2016. Ms. Fujimori was under investigation for corruption charges until her celebration attempted to remove the lawyer common. She has steadily amassed more power in Congress since, threatening top judges with dismissal and forcing Mr. Kuczynski’s ministers to resign.

Ms. Fujimori’s father, Alberto Fujimori, is at present serving a 25-year jail sentence for corruption and human rights abuses that occurred after he suspended dissolved Cognress and the judiciary and ruled Peru as an autocrat for a decade. Ms. Fujimori has stated that if she gains power, she would grant her father amnesty.

Mr. Kuczynski has warned of a deeper crisis afoot ought to he be ousted.

“I see an assault against the democratic order,” warned Mr. Kuczynski in a televised speech on Sunday. “There are no formal charges, no accusation under the Constitution — they say ‘you’re out’ and that is not the Peru that we want.”

The projects in Peru have been only the tip of the iceberg for Odebrecht, which admitted final year to bribes of about $800 million from Mexico to Angola, even preserving a separate division which managed the payoffs. Odebrecht then took more than building for pricey infrastructure projects like bridges, highways and dams, sending exorbitant bills to pliant officials.

Former president Alejandro Toledo in 2011. He remains at huge following getting indicted by prosecutors for accepting $20 million in payments from Odebrecht.CreditMariana Bazo/Reuters

The capital’s failed Costa Verde project typified the graft.

For residents of the capital, the project sounded like a godsend: A stretch of highway meant to cut down visitors to the country’s major airport, accessible only on streets that can back up for hours for the duration of the morning commute. An initial contract was awarded to Odebrecht for just under $one hundred million in 2014.

In April this year, with building only partly full and the project operating over spending budget by millions of dollars, prosecutors accused a nearby governor of accepting $four million in bribes. Significantly of the highway is still dirt now, and the regional government has placed safety guards to ward off squatter encampments on the empty stretches.

Antonio León, a 56-year-old owner of a comfort shop overlooking the construction, spent a recent day choking on dust from the unfinished road.

“There isn’t even lighting, the mayor has forgotten us,” he said. “We thought Kuczynksi would be various, but now we are disappointed and waiting with anxiousness for Thursday to see what they inform us.”

In comparison to the $4 million for the road, the payments the president’s company is accused of accepting appear reasonably little. The transaction was revealed final week in a disclosure to Congress which mentioned Westfield Capital, a business owned by Mr. Kuczynski, had taken the money from Odebrecht in exchange for consulting services.

Some found the revelation damning at a time when so several other politicians have been caught in the Odebrecht dragnet.

“He knew this was kryptonite,” stated Eduardo Dargent, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, of Mr. Kuczynski. “He knew he’d go down if they identified these kind of hyperlinks to his private activities.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Dargent agreed with the president that the impeachment method appeared rushed provided the magnitude of the outcome if Mr. Kuczynski have been ousted.

“Here they can put you on political trial and inside a week you win or they throw you out,” stated Mr. Dargent.


Published at Tue, 19 Dec 2017 19:31:ten +0000

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