After barely a year and a half in office, centrist businessman Pedro Pablo Kuczynski reportedly tendered his resignation from the presidency of Peru to the nation’s legislature on Wednesday following a scandal involving videos purporting to show him discussing the purchase of votes.
Kuczynski won the presidency in 2016 with 50.12 percent of the vote in an extremely close run-off election against right-wing law and order candidate Keiko Fujimori. Fujimori remains in politics as the head of the Popular Force political party.
Popular Force published videos Tuesday allegedly showing members of Kuczynski’s political coalition working to buy off opposition legislators with pet projects so that they would not vote in favor of removing him from office. Among the Popular Force legislators implicated in this corruption scheme is Congressman Kenji Fujimori, Keiko’s brother. Kenji resigned from the Popular Force party this month after evidence surfaced indicating that Keiko had accepted bribes from Odebrecht, the disgraced Brazilian contractor found to have bribed governments all throughout Latin America.
Among the most controversial moves of Kuczynski’s tenure was the pardon of former president Alberto Fujimori, Keiko and Kenji’s father, who was serving a 25-year prison sentence, on humanitarian grounds. Alberto Fujimori is 79 and, while in prison, served time with Kuczynski’s predecessor, Ollanta Humala. Humala was indicted for taking bribes from Odebrecht.
According to Peruvian newspaper La República, Kuczynski tendered his resignation on Wednesday after having survived two attempts by the congress to remove him, including one scheduled to go to a vote tomorrow. Kuczynski was facing removal on moral grounds for his alleged ties to Odebrecht.
First Vice President Martín Vizcarra will take over as head of government for Kuczynski once his removal is finalized. At press time, Kuczynski has not made any public statements announcing his discharge from the office. His last message on Twitter reads, “I do not give up and I stay firm with my people. My work has not finished. You elected me and we will keep working together, like we are doing here in Punchana (Iquitos), to bring more water to the whole country.”
No me rindo y sigo firme con mi pueblo. Mi labor no ha terminado. Ustedes me eligieron y seguiremos trabajando juntos como aquí en Punchana (Iquitos), para llevar más agua a todo el país. pic.twitter.com/Ker6JjeXZS
— PedroPablo Kuczynski (@ppkamigo) March 19, 2018
The BBC reports that Peruvian police in the major cities are on “maximum alert” on a national level for any violence or rioting in the streets.
Kuczynski survived an impeachment vote in December after Kenji Fujimori led block of lawmakers to resist pressure from Popular Force to vote to remove the president. The videos that political party released this week were reportedly recorded that month, showing Fujimori discussing accepting support for local projects in his district in exchange for supporting the president with Kuczynski’s attorney.
“This government thought that it could buy anything with money,” Keiko Fujimori remarked on Twitter. “Mistake.”
“I lament even more than my own brother is involved in these practices, which do so much harm to us as Peruvians and as a family,” she added. “It’s time to tell Mr. PPK to leave … his departure will help us be reborn as a nation.”
Lamento aún más que mi propio hermano se encuentre envuelto en estas prácticas que tanto daño nos hicieron como peruanos y como familia. (2/3)
— Keiko Fujimori (@KeikoFujimori) March 21, 2018
Kenji Fujimori called the publication of the video “low class” and accused Keiko of “delinquent attitudes” for having allowed her party to publish the videos. He claimed his remarks in the video were being “distorted” and that those recording the video did so with the morbid intent of gaining his trust to eventually acquire access to Alberto Fujimori.
Lima will be hosting the Summit of the Americas next month, which President Donald Trump is expected to attend.