Buenos Aires Times


Peru's VP to step into void left by president's resignation

Kuczynski stepped down when it became clear he could not survive the impeachment vote, over his links to Brazil's construction giant Odebrecht.

Friday 23 March, 2018
In this file picture from 2016 Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (R) and Vice-President Martin Vizcarra are pictured at a ceremony in Lima.
In this file picture from 2016 Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (R) and Vice-President Martin Vizcarra are pictured at a ceremony in Lima. Foto:AFP/ Cris Bouroncle

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Peru's vice president Martin Vizcarra, catapulted from the relative obscurity of a diplomatic post in Canada, is expected to be sworn-in as president Friday to replace Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, forced to resign over corruption allegations.

Vizcarra, ambassador to Canada as well as being his country's first vice-president, was due to arrive in Lima in the early hours of Friday and be sworn-in before Congress later in the day.

"I am indignant at the current situation, like the majority of Peruvians," he said on Twitter, adding that he is "at the disposal of the country" before flying to Lima.

Vizcarra, who turned 55 on Thursday, stepped forward to fill the gap left by Kuczynski's resignation and avoid the need for early elections at a time of widespread voter discontent after a series of political scandals.

He would hold the post until July 2021, when Kuczynski's mandate was due to end.

Meanwhile, instead of an expected impeachment vote for Kuczynski, Peruvian lawmakers were debating the 79-year-old's resignation late into Thursday night.

They were to vote on Friday whether to accept it and forego the need for an impeachment.

"This is not a happy day for the country. It is not a day we are proud of. It is a difficult and complicated day," opposition MP Victor Andres Belaunde told the Congress.

Outgoing Economy Minister Claudia Cooper said Vizcarra would inherit "an economy with growth that is the highest in the region." Cooper resigned in solidarity with Kuczynski.

Analysts predict Peru's economy will grow by more than 2 percent this year.

Ratings agency Standard and Poor's said Peru's ratings were not immediately affected by the resignation.

But it said Vizcarra "will need to forge alliances in the Congress to avoid recurrent conflicts and move ahead with the government's existing spending agenda."

Odebrecht revealed in December that it had paid nearly $5 million for advice from companies linked to Kuczynski when he was minister. 

The Brazilian company has admitted that it made campaign contributions between 2006-2011 to the last four presidents.

A vote to reject the resignation would mean Congress is to going ahead with the impeachment vote, which would be a humiliation for Kuczynski, popularly known by his initials, PPK.

The situation echoes what happened to his disgraced predecessor Alberto Fujimori at the end of his decade long presidency in 2000.

Congress impeached Fujimori on the grounds of "permanent moral incapacity," bringing to an end weeks of political drama.

Fujimori had resigned by fax -- sent from his hotel room in Japan -- but this was rejected by Congress, which chose instead to punish the ex-strongman.

By resigning on the eve of an impeachment vote, Kuczynski was hoping to avoid the same fate.




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