March 23, 2018
LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s congress is expected to vote Friday to accept President Pedro Pablo Kuczysnki*s resignation and swear in as his replacement a politician who the vast majority of voters never even heard of until recently.
Vice President Martin Vizcarra flew back to Lima on Thursday from Canada, where he had been serving as ambassador, amid one of the most politically turbulent periods in Peru’s recent history. Efforts to oust the unpopular Kuczynski led by the daughter of former strongman Alberto Fujimori have been building for months. But the campaign went into overdrive this week after the emergence of secretly shot videos showed allies of Kuczynski, including Fujimori*s son, allegedly attempting to buy the support of an opposition lawmaker to block the president’s impeachment.
To stem off an even more disgraceful exit, Kuczynski delivered a resignation letter to congress Wednesday, blaming relentless attacks by his opponents for making it impossible to govern. During a heated debate that ran far into Thursday night, lawmakers appeared to be leaning toward accepting the offer, although some parties on the left argued the body should instead hold impeachment proceedings.
Kuczynski’s downfall was his association with Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant that has admitted to spreading some $800 million in bribes to officials across Latin America, including $29 million in Peru.
For months, even as three of his predecessors became ensnared in the bribery scandal, Kuczynski vehemently denied having any business or political ties to the company. But documents presented by Keiko Fujimori’s Popular Force party showed his consulting firm had received $782,000 in payments from Odebrecht a decade ago, some of them when he was a government minister.
The former Wall Street investor said he wasn’t then managing the day-to-day affairs of his consulting business and denied any wrongdoing. Stepping into the void left by Kuczynski is Vizcarra, whose name wasn’t recognized by 81 percent of Peruvians in a March poll by Ipsos. His only previous experience in public office before becoming vice president in 2016 was as governor of Peru’s second-least populated province.
While Vizcarra is expected to continue Kuczynski*s pro-business agenda, he will face a tough challenge building consensus with a hostile congress and growing public anger at Peru’s political class. Protesters scuffled with police Thursday night while calling for new elections for both president and congress.
The new president’s first test on the international stage will come in three weeks when he is expected to host President Donald Trump and other Western Hemisphere leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Lima.