Peru’s president offers resignation ahead of impeachment vote
Congress will debate whether to accept his resignation.
Embattled president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski offered his resignation on Wednesday ahead of an impeachment vote, seeking to put an end to a fast-moving political drama playing out just three weeks before the Andean nation is set to host US President Donald Trump for a regional summit.
In a nationwide televised address, Mr Kuczynski, flanked by his cabinet, lashed out at opponents led by the daughter of former strongman Alberto Fujimori for allegedly plotting his overthrow with damaging leaks of confidential documents that raised doubts about his integrity and made it impossible to govern.
“I don’t want to be an obstacle blocking our nation from finding the path to unity and harmony that it so much needs and which I was denied,” he said, adding that the campaign in favour of his removal had caused “enormous damage” to Peru’s democracy.
Congress was scheduled to debate on Thursday whether to accept the resignation, which would transfer power to first vice-president Martin Vizcarra. It could also decide to reject his offer and plough ahead with impeachment proceedings, which a large majority of politicians had favoured before Mr Kuczynski resigned.
Beyond the conservative leader’s departure, the outlook is uncertain, with many Peruvians expressing disgust with their entire political class — not just Mr Kuczynski but also his accusers, led by Mr Fujimori’s daughter Keiko.
Mr Vizcarra, who is in Canada, where he had been serving as Peru’s ambassador, has not said whether he would form a government to try and finish Mr Kuczynski’s term ending in 2021.
If he and the country’s second vice-president resign in solidarity with Mr Kuczynski, as they vowed during a previous impeachment attempt in December, power would transfer to the head of congress, who would be required by the constitution to call new elections — for both president and congress — within a year.
“The only public institution with moral authority left in Peru is the fire department,” said Oscar Mendoza, a lawyer standing outside the presidential palace moments after Mr Kuczynski waved goodbye to aides and stepped into a tinted SUV for a lonely drive to his Lima mansion. “All the rest, when you touch them with your finger, puss comes out because they are fully corrupted by graft.”
Pressure has been building on Mr Kuczynski to resign after the shock revelation on Tuesday of secretly shot videos in which several of the president’s allies were caught allegedly trying to buy the support of an opposition politician to block the conservative leader’s impeachment.
The videos presented by Keiko Fujimori’s party purportedly show attempts by Mr Kuczynski’s lawyer, a government official, and Mr Fujimori’s son Kenji trying to convince the politician to back the president in exchange for a hand in lucrative state contracts.
Mr Kuczynski said the videos had been heavily edited to smear him and recalled practices from “sad days of Peru’s history that we thought had been overcome”.
He was referring to Mr Fujimori’s longtime spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who secretly recorded himself paying cash bribes to media moguls, military officers and politicians in efforts to gain leverage over potential rivals and boost his almost unlimited power.
Kenji Fujimori led a group of rebellious politicians in December who defied his sister’s leadership of the Popular Force party to narrowly block Mr Kuczynski’s removal. Days later, Mr Kuczynski pardoned the feuding siblings’ father from a 25-year jail sentence for human rights abuses committed during his decade-long presidency.
A new impeachment vote had been scheduled to take place on Thursday and Mr Kuczynski had been scrambling for support.
Peru’s chief prosecutor as well as congress said they would open a criminal probe into the videos.