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Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigns ahead of 2nd impeachment vote

Luka Gonzales/AFP

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, former Wall Street veteran brought down by corruption probes. First Vice President Martin Vizcarra to be sworn in on Friday

By John Quigley

Petroleumworld 03 22 2018

Peruvian lawmakers began planning the transfer of power to Peru's first vice president after Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned in the face of a second impeachment vote, brought down by the continent-wide Carwash bribery scandal.

Martin Vizcarra will be sworn in Friday after party chiefs meeting in Congress agreed to accept Kuczynski's resignation, speaker Luis Galarreta told reporters. Vizcarra is expected to arrive in Lima on Thursday, his 55th birthday. He has been serving as Peru's ambassador to Canada.

Kuczynski said in a national address Wednesday that resigning was best for the the South American nation and would end uncertainty.

“There will be an orderly constitutional transition,” he said on state television flanked by his cabinet. “I don't want to be an obstacle for the nation finding the path of union and harmony that it so badly needs and which was denied me.”

Kuczynski, a 79-year-old Wall Street veteran and former finance minister, had beaten a first attempt at impeachment in December after the revelation that a firm he owned took money from Brazilian builder Odebrecht SA, which doled out hundreds of millions in bribes across the region. His escape was narrow enough to embolden opponents to make a second attempt, and on Wednesday, some lawmakers who previously supported him called for his resignation after allegations he sought to reward politicians in exchange for retaining power.

Peru's currency gained on the reports of Kuczynski's resignation, strengthening as much as 0.4 percent to 3.2516 per dollar, the strongest in two weeks.

Line of Succession

As first vice president, Vizcarra is first in line to take power and is entitled to hold office until 2021 when the government's mandate expires. A civil engineer turned politician, Vizcarra joined Kuczynski's campaign as an adviser in 2015 after a four-year term as governor of the Moquegua region in south Peru. He quit as transportation minister in May under pressure from lawmakers amid a spat over an airport contract.

Political turmoil is nothing new to Peru. Its previous four presidents have been under investigation for money laundering, corruption or human-rights abuses. One is in prison, one has just been released and Peru is seeking the extradition of another from the U.S.

Crucial Defections

Kuczynski's position deteriorated quickly. Since late Tuesday, Jorge del Castillo, a legislator with the opposition Apra party, and three lawmakers who left Kuczynski's party last year said that they were in favor of impeachment. Their change of heart followed the release of secretly filmed videos that appear to show government-allied lawmakers telling a member of Peru's biggest opposition party, Popular Force, that he would control public works in his jurisdiction if he abstained in Thursday's planned impeachment vote.

Del Castillo, who previously said there were no grounds for ousting Kuczynski, told Radio Programas the president should resign. Salvador Heresi, a lawmaker with Kuczynski's Peruvians for Change party, said before the resignation that he would have voted for impeachment.

“What we saw in the videos released yesterday is disgraceful and gravely affects our democracy,” Heresi said via Twitter.

Speaking to reporters before the videos were aired by Popular Force, Kuczynski said accusations of vote buying were “a big lie.”

Araoz on Wednesday denied to reporters that the government offered projects or money to sway legislators.

Swept Away

Kuczynski had been fighting for his political life since last year after claims that he lied to congress to hide his ties to Odebrecht, which is at the center of Carwash. Prosecutors across Latin America are investigating bribes that the company paid to public officials in exchange for billions of dollars in contracts. The company disclosed payments to Westfield Capital Ltd., owned by Kuczynski, of close to $800,000 between 2004 to 2007 for advice on projects that Peru awarded it.

The president has said he had no knowledge of the company's dealings at the time, because an associate was managing the firm. He said that, as sole shareholder of Westfield, he later received a dividend and thus "earned some money" from the Odebrecht deal. But he denied granting any favors to Odebrecht when he was finance minister.

The scandal and investigation has roiled the nation's construction industry and delayed major infrastructure projects while prompting the government and private economists to slash growth forecasts for the Andean nation.

Kuczynski's departure will bring “some peace” to markets, said Carlos Rojas, founder of Lima-based Andino Asset Management. If Vizcarra takes over as expected, investors can expect a “relief rally,” said Bulltick's Kathryn Rooney Vera.

Story by John Quigley; With assistance by Ben Bartenstein from Bloomberg. /
03 21 2018

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