Odebrecht Scandal Takes Political Elites by Storm in Peru

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The resignation of Peru’s president illustrates the incredible reach and power of the so-called Odebrecht case and will cause other elites connected to the scandal to squirm in their seats.

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski became the first serving head of state in Latin America to leave office on March 21 for the wave of accusations linked to the largest corruption investigation in Latin America: the Odebrecht case.

In a recorded video message, and after hours of deliberations with his ministers, Kuczynski read a letter announcing his resignation, which he had already sent to the head of congress. Congress is currently debating whether to accept his resignation.

“On July 28, 2016, I took, by mandate of the people, the Presidency of the Republic, which I have performed to the best of my abilities, despite the constant obstacles and attacks I have been subjected to by the legislative majority since the first day of my government … This political confrontation has created a climate of ungovernability, which severely debilitates the country … Faced with this difficult situation … I think the best thing for the country is for me to resign from the presidency,” Kuczynski said.

He also published the letter through his Twitter account @ppkamigo.

The extraordinary announcement came a day before congress planned to put Kuczynski’s impeachment to a vote and 24 hours after members of the Popular Force (Fuerza Popular) — the main opposition party headed by Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori — published a series of videos showing congressman Kenji Fujimori, the son of the former president and brother of Keiko, alongside figures close to the government, bribing an opposition member of parliament in exchange for a vote against the president’s impeachment.

Peru’s constitution includes a clause that says “moral incapacity” (“incapacidad moral”), or serious crimes that affect the president’s honor such as lying, are sufficient grounds for impeachment. The president can defend him or herself before members of congress vote.

This was the second time congress considered impeaching Kuczynski on corruption charges. According to the congressional representatives making the accusations, the videos presented by Fuerza Popular date from December 2017, when Kuczynski faced impeachment for “moral incapacity.” With support from Fujimori, he managed to wiggle his way out of the case.

A few days later, the president granted a controversial amnesty to former President Alberto Fujimori, who was in prison serving a 25-year sentence for human rights violations.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

But instead of stabilizing the government, the amnesty did the opposite. As Convoca noted, congressional representatives from the Frente Amplio — another opposition party — opened another impeachment effort against Kuczynski in the wake of “alleged charging of services provided to Odebrecht, through his company Westfield Capital, which is managed by his partner Gerardo Sepúlveda.”

Now the president is gone.

InSight Crime Analysis

Kuczynski’s resignation sends a strong message and will chill elites regionwide, especially those connected to Odebrecht and other political corruption cases.

The Brazilian construction conglomerate allegedly paid Kuczynski $4.8 million in consultancy fees when he was a minister under former President Alejandro Toledo, who was in office from 2001 to 2006 and who is also accused of benefiting from irregular payments from Odebrecht. Kuczynski denies having any links with the conglomerate.

In his resignation letter, Kuczynski wrote: “The opposition has tried to portray me as a corrupt individual … I categorically reject those accusations, which were never proven to be true … Following the reasons I have detailed, through this letter I resign to the post of Constitutional President of the Republic.”

But the videos sunk him. Ironically, they reminded many of the “vladivideos”, the infamous recording that showed the corruption that killed the government of Alberto Fujimori, who was president from 1990 to 2000.

The videos are named after Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori’s then advisor and right-hand man, who is currently serving a 22-year jail sentence on charges of forced disappearances, aside from having been accused of corruption and drug trafficking.

The “vladivideos” ended the government of Fujimori, who was removed by congress on the same charge that Kuczynski faced: “moral incapacity.”

The network of bribes developed by the Brazilian multinational was one of the biggest corruption scandals in Latin America, involving presidents, former presidents, political leaders and businessmen from across the region. In Peru alone, that list includes Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo, as well as the former candidate Keiko Fujimori and now Kuczynski.

The Odebrecht scandal also hit the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Ecuador’s Vice President Jorge Glas, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuelan political leader Diosdadao Cabello, several officials from the Dominican Republic and even some former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC). The constant findings in the case point to the possibility that there might be even more people involved.

SEE ALSO: Elites and Organized Crime

Although the details of this massive case have been known and publicized thanks to the investigations carried out by authorities in several countries and reports from media outlets, most of the officials implicated are still in office or are fugitives from justice.

Peru is an exception where investigations of the Attorney Generals’ Office has one former president in custody and one facing an extradition request. Add to that Kuczynski, who became the first serving president to leave office on Odebrecht-related charges.

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