Peru Congress votes to impeach president, citing corruption

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Nov. 10 (UPI) — Peruvian lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to impeach President Martin Vizcarra as the South American nation continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress voted 105-19 on Monday in favor of the opposition motion to remove Vizcarra, 57, a decision the president said he didn’t agree with but wouldn’t contest.

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“I declare that without agreeing with the decision, today I will leave the presidential palace and go to my home,” he said in a national address. “History and the Peruvian people will judge the decisions that each one of us makes.”

In a statement on Twitter addressed to the Peruvian people, he said they were his “support and strength” during his nearly three-year presidency.

“I leave with a clear conscience, my head held high and my duty accomplished,” he wrote. “Until another chance.”

Opposition lawmaker and the head of the Congress Manuel Merino is expected to be sworn in as interim president, as stipulated by Peru’s Constitution, for the remainder of Vizcarra’s term, which ends in July.

The impeachment resolution alleged corruption against Vizcarra, who vowed to fight that very crime when he was sworn in as president in 2018 following the resignation of his predecessor, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

Kuczynski stepped down a day before an impeachment vote following accusations of corruption.

Vizcarra has denied the accusations of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from companies that won contracts when he was the governor of Moquegua in southern Peru.

Jo-Marie Burt, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, a research and human rights advocacy organization, said on Twitter that the charges against Vizcarra “seem to have some basis to them” but that observers are unsure they would warrant his impeachment.

“Vizcarra himself had promised to submit to an investigation at the end of his term,” she said.

It is the second time in months the opposition-dominated Congress held an impeachment vote to oust Vizcarra. In September, the effort alleging he misused public funds only gained the support of 32 lawmakers. Vizcarra denied those accusations as well.

Following Monday’s impeachment vote, protesters against the ousting of Vizcarra gathered near the Congress building, Bloomberg reported.

The impeachment came as Peru continues to battle one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world that has caused the country’s economy to contract 30.2% in the second quarter following a shrinkage of 3.5% in the first.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have ranked Peru the 12th sickest country to the pandemic, suffering more than 922,000 infections including nearly 35,000 deaths to COVID-19.

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