Peru’s President Kuczynski Resigns Ahead of Impeachment Vote

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Source: Bloomberg