LIMA – Peru’s Economy Minister Alfredo Thorne denied on Friday he had sought to pressure the Andean nation’s comptroller into supporting a contract for the construction of an airport near the colonial city of Cuzco.
In remarks to the opposition-controlled unicameral legislature, Thorne said his meeting with Edgar Alarcon came at the latter’s request and that an audio recording of that May 17 conversation – replayed on a TV program – had been made secretly and was misleading because there were gaps in the tape.
Thorne said during the extraordinary session that some of the phrases he used could be misinterpreted out of context but that at no time did he pressure the comptroller.
He also said it was regrettable that members of the conservative opposition Popular Force party were unconcerned about the fact he had been surreptitiously taped in his own office.
On the recording, Thorne appeared to try to persuade Alarcon not to publish a report on alleged irregularities in a contract the government had signed with Argentine-Peruvian consortium Kuntur Wasi for construction of the Cuzco airport.
The contract was canceled last month.
After the recording came to light, Thorne accused Alarcon of having illegally taped the conversation. The comptroller responded by saying this week that his job is not to make recordings but to conduct audits.
At one point in the conversation, Thorne can be heard saying that President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski asked him to explain to Alarcon the importance of investment projects like the airport and insinuating that approval of the deal was a pre-condition for a higher budget for the comptroller’s office.
Kuczynski said on Friday that his administration had a “replacement plan” ready in the event Thorne is forced to resign over the alleged quid-pro-quo offer.
He added, however, that he did not think it would be necessary to implement the plan.