LIMA, Peru (AP) – Peru’s president faced a second impeachment vote in less than two months Monday over new accusations of corruption in the latest jolt to one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Opposition lawmakers contend Martín Vizcarra took over $630,000 in bribes in exchange for authorizing two construction contracts while governor of Moquegua, a province in southern Peru with a population of about 180,000.
The allegations are being investigated by the chief prosecutor’s office but Vizcarra has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.
“This is a new attempt to generate instability in the country,” Vizcarra said Sunday. “With firmness and conviction, I reiterate to all Peruvians that in the course of my political career I have not participated in any irregular activity or committed any corrupt act.”
Peru has the world’s highest per capita COVID-19 mortality rate, the culmination of years and underinvestment in public health, poverty and costly decisions by officials in the early days of the pandemic, like massively deploying rapid antibody tests to diagnose cases even though they can’t identify infections early during illness.
Vizcarra rose to the nation’s highest office in 2016 after then-President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned amid allegations that he’d failed to disclose payments from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to his private consulting firm. He has made defeating corruption his principal mission and is one of the nation’s most popular leaders in recent history.
But he’s also repeatedly faced off with Congress, where he has few allies, and Peru’s laws allow legislators to dismiss a president on the vaguely defined grounds of “moral incapacity.” It is unclear whether opposition lawmaker will obtain the 87 votes required to remove him.
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