Peru Odebrecht scandal: President Kuczynski faces impeachment

Peru's president faces calls to resign over Odebrecht fees

Peru's president faces calls to resign over Odebrecht fees

Peru's center-right President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said on Thursday he would not resign in the face of possible impeachment over payments to a firm he owned by a Brazilian company that has bribed politicians across Latin America. Lawmakers could summon Kuczynski to defend himself before congress as early as next week. Kuczynski, now 79, was minister of the government of Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006).

But this week Odebrecht sent Congress a report in which it detailed deposits totalling about $800,000 to Westfield - some when Kuczynski held senior government roles in Toledo's government - and about $4 million to First Capital Inversiones y Asesorias, a firm controlled by a close friend of Kuczynski.

Peruvians are still coming to grips with the shock revelation, which carried more impact because as recently as last month Kuczynski had denied having any professional or political ties to Odebrecht while at the same time criticizing three predecessors accused of taking bribes from the company.

"I've never had the slightest intention of hiding anything", Kuczynski said, stressing he correctly reported and paid taxes of the earnings.

His address ended a 24-hour period of political turbulence that started on Wednesday as opposition politicians presented documents provided by Odebrecht showing payments to Westfield as well as four million dollars (£3 million) to another firm, First Capital, owned by the same business partner. Between those years, Peru awarded Odebrecht a major highway contract and Kuczynski was a high-ranking government official. He campaigned on a pledge to clean up corruption and provide much-needed stability in one of South America's most politically volatile nations.

"I'm an honest man and have been all my life", Kuczynski said.

His detractors now accuse him of misleading the nation.

The president of Congress, Luis Galarreta, told Reuters news agency the president might be removed from office within a week.

Peru's opposition-led Congress has initiated proceedings to impeach President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on charges of alleged corruption. First Vice President Martin Vizcarra, who could take office if Kuczynski is booted, acknowledged the nation's hard moment on Twitter, reiterating Peru's commitment to the constitution and to democratic institutions.

But many Peruvians weren't convinced by his reassurances offered in a televised address Wednesday night.

Steve Levitsky, a Harvard University political scientist who has spent years studying Peru, said Kuczynski was already a weak president with little legislative or popular support before the corruption allegations, which had been quietly dogging him for some time. "It's not that what he did was necessarily illegal, but the fact that he swore over and over again that he had no ties to Odebrecht, and that was proven to be nakedly false". Fujimori is the father of Keiko Fujimori, who narrowly lost to Kuczynski in last year's election and is the leader of the Popular Force party.

Alberto Fujimori is in jail for human rights violations.

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