Peru’s Congress votes to impeach president: official

Published November 10, 2020, 9:22 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

Peru’s Congress voted Monday to impeach President Martin Vizcarra over allegations he took kickbacks from developers while a regional governor.

Handout picture released by the Peruvian Presidency showing President Martin Vizcarra giving a televised message to the nation in Lima, on September 10, 2020, amid a political crisis for allegedly trying to obstruct a graft probe involving government officials. (Photo by Carla PATINO / Peruvian Presidency / AFP / File photo)

After an impeachment trial that lasted several hours, Vizcarra’s opponents surpassed the 87 votes needed to impeach him.

Under the constitution, Congress leader Manuel Marino will take over the presidential functions until the end of the current term in July 2021.

Speaking in his own defense at the start of the impeachment trial earlier Monday, the 57-year-old president rounded on his critics, vehemently denying that he had ever accepted bribes.

“I emphatically and categorically reject these accusations,” Vizcarra told lawmakers ahead of the vote over charges that he accepted bribes in 2014.

Several businessmen claim Vizcarra received kickbacks in exchange for public works contracts while he was governor of the southern department of Moquegua.

Vizcarra told lawmakers Monday that the two contracts in question were assigned by a UN agency and not by his administration in Moquegua. 

The allegations were based on press reports, he said, and not on any decision taken by the public prosecutor’s office or by the court system.

Vizcarra has won public backing over pledges to root out entrenched corruption in Peruvian politics since assuming power in 2018, though he has been at loggerheads with opponents in Congress, where he lacks a solid majority.

He survived a previous impeachment vote in September. 

On that occasion, the vote centered on allegations that he directed aides to lie to investigators in a separate case. 

His opponents in Congress failed to garner enough votes to convict him of “moral incapacity.”

Vizcarra replaced the former president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who resigned after a corruption scandal.

Prior to the impeachment, state prosecutors said they intended to open a corruption investigation against Vizcarra once his term ended.