LIMA – Peru’s Congress voted on Thursday to debate the impeachment motion of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski for his alleged ties to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which has admitted paying millions of dollars in bribes to Peruvian politicians.
Lawmakers voted 87-15 in favor of the impeachment motion, with 15 abstentions.
To remove the conservative president from office, 87 of the 130 members of Congress must vote in favor of the motion.
Congress will begin debate on the impeachment motion within the next 10 days and Kuczynski will be able to defend himself accompanied by an attorney, as was the case during the first impeachment motion against him submitted last December based on the same accusations.
On that occasion, Kuczynski avoided impeachment thanks to the votes of 10 opposition lawmakers led by Kenji Fujimori, son of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori.
Three days later, on Christmas Eve, Kuczynski pardoned Alberto Fujimori, serving a 25-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity during his 1990-2000 presidency.
Kuczynski became president by defeating Keiko Fujimori – Kenji’s older sister – in a 2016 runoff. During the campaign, Kuczynski vowed not to pardon Alberto Fujimori.
The impetus behind impeachment comes from the right-wing Popular Party, led by Keiko Fujimori.
Pro-impeachment forces cited as evidence Kuczynski’s written statements to the congressional committee investigating the Odebrecht bribery scandal.
While the president denied having received money from Odebrecht, the panel said that it had documents showing that the Brazilian firm paid Kuczynski’s financial-consulting business, Westfield Capital Ltd., more than $782,000 between 2004-2007.
During those years, Kuczynski served as economy minister and prime minister in the 2001-2006 administration of President Alejandro Toledo.
The president said in December that during his tenure with the Toledo administration, he turned over management of Westfield to then-business partner Gerardo Sepulveda, and that it was the latter who signed the consulting contract with Odebrecht.
Kuczynski said that he was unaware at the time of the work for Odebrecht, as he had erected a “Chinese wall” between himself and Westfield’s operations.