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Peru’s President Faces Second Impeachment Bid in Five Weeks

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 21/10/2020 John Quigley

(Bloomberg) -- A group of Peruvian lawmakers are making a fresh bid to impeach President Martin Vizcarra over bribery allegations, barely a month after an initial attempt to oust him over a separate graft case.

Lawmakers from four parties filed the motion late Tuesday, which accuses the president of receiving bribes and lying repeatedly to the country about the allegations. It seeks his ouster on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity.”

A vote on whether to start impeachment proceedings must now be held at a plenary session of the South American country’s single-chamber congress. Several parties previously said they wouldn’t support the motion and it’s unclear whether it will get the minimum 52 votes, equal to 40% of the chamber’s 130 seats, required for proceedings to start.

Martín Vizcarra wearing a suit and tie: Peru's President Martin Vizcarra Interview © Bloomberg Peru's President Martin Vizcarra Interview

Martin Vizcarra

Photographer: Demetrius Freeman/Bloomberg

Vizcarra is the second Peruvian leader facing impeachment proceedings in less than three years. His predecessor, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, resigned after an opposition lawmaker released videos that showed his allies apparently negotiating votes to stave off his ouster. Two other former presidents are under investigation for graft and another one is in prison.

Proper Investigation

Popular Action, the largest party in congress with 25 seats, said a proper investigation is required to justify any impeachment effort, spokesman Ricardo Burga told RPP radio on Tuesday, before the motion was filed.

Alliance for Progress, the second largest party in Congress, will study the legal and political aspects of the motion before taking a decision, said Luis Valdez, a vice president of congress, told the Canal N network. The party will take into account the economic and health crisis facing Peru, he said.

The latest effort to remove Vizcarra, who has maintained high approval ratings for much of his presidency, comes less than six months before the country holds a general election. The president has said he won’t stand for re-election and without a party to defend him in congress, he’ll be vulnerable to opposition attacks until he leaves office in July.

Building Projects

Prosecutors are probing allegations that Vizcarra took 2.3 million soles ($639,000) in bribes from companies building infrastructure projects in the Moquegua region, where he was governor from 2011 to 2014. Prosecutors opened a probe into Vizcarra last week based on testimony and documents provided by construction company executives seeking a plea deal as part of a wider bribery probe.

Vizcarra said on Monday political adversaries and interest groups are behind the allegations, which he called “inventions.” His press office didn’t respond to a text message seeking comment on the motion.

Congress began impeachment proceedings against Vizcarra last month after lawmakers accused him of trying to obstruct a probe into alleged irregularities in the government’s hiring of a little-known singer to give talks at the Culture Ministry. The motion lacked the 87 votes needed for his ouster.

The latest motion was signed by lawmakers from the Union for Peru and We Can parties, which voted in favor of Vizcarra’s impeachment last month, as well as some legislators from the Broad Front and Popular Action parties.

(Adds previous impeachment bids in 3rd paragraph.)

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