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LatinNews Daily - 21 October 2020

PERU: Impeachment drama drags on for Vizcarra

On 20 October, ultra-nationalist party Unión por el Perú (UPP) presented a new impeachment motion against Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra in congress, following a wave of corruption allegations against the president.

Analysis:

The motion, signed by 27 legislators from four different parties, comes after Vizcarra survived a previous impeachment attempt in September only after congress backed down at the last minute. The allegations are arguably more serious this time, but many in congress will be wary of signing up for another attempt to impeach the president. However, while it remains unlikely that genuine action will be taken against Vizcarra, this persistent institutional deadlock will continue to undermine the capacity of the government to tackle the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the associated economic crisis, which have hit Peru particularly hard. This uncertainty is especially unwelcome just six months before a general election – Vizcarra claims that a desire to destabilise his administration ahead of this vote is the true motivation for these corruption claims.

  • This latest impeachment motion, like the previous one, seeks to dismiss Vizcarra for ‘moral incapacity’. Unlike last time, however, the president now stands accused not just of covering up corruption, but of actively engaging in it, based in particular on an allegation made by Elard Tejeda Moscoso, former general manager of Peruvian construction company Obrainsa, that Vizcarra had accepted a PEN1m (US$278,000) bribe from him while serving as governor of Moquegua region (2011-2014).
  • This is one of a number of similar allegations to surface in recent weeks, relating both to Vizcarra’s governorship of Moquegua and to his time as transport minister (2016-2017). Several of these claims, including Tejeda’s, are linked to the ‘construction club’ scandal, a long-running investigation into a group of companies (most notably Brazilian firm Odebrecht) accused of rigging tenders for infrastructure projects in Peru.
  • Vizcarra has claimed that the allegations are a reaction to his efforts to clamp down on such corruption, and that congress has seized upon this opportunity to put pressure on his administration to either delay the legislative portion of next year’s elections, or allow sitting legislators (elected in January after the previous congress was dissolved by Vizcarra in 2019) to run for re-election. The national electoral council (JNE) ruled last week that no legislator elected in either 2016 or 2020 would be allowed to run in 2021.
  • Congress president, Manuel Merino, responded by calling on Vizcarra to “solve his own problems” rather than drawing congress into this “labyrinth”. Meanwhile the two parties that Vizcarra said had asked him to delay the legislative vote to allow incumbents to sit a full term- the centrist Acción Popular (AP) and the right-wing Alianza para el Progreso (APP)- have rejected this claim, with the former condemning Vizcarra’s “breakdown in neutrality” ahead of next year’s vote.
  • Both of these parties have ruled out supporting UPP’s impeachment motion (although two of AP’s 25 legislators were among the signatories, along with members of right-wing Podemos Perú and centre-left Frente Amplio). Achieving the two-thirds majority needed to impeach the president would be impossible without at least some support from AP and APP, although both showed a willingness in September to change stance as the situation develops.

Looking Ahead: Regardless of the chances of success, these impeachment efforts will continue to represent a significant distraction from the challenges facing Peru, and it is hard to see how these machinations will reflect well on anyone ahead of next April’s election.