The resignation of Peru’s president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was inevitable after the release of videos that show his allies attempting to buy the vote of an unknown congressman and member of the main opposition party to prevent impeachment. His loss is a major blow to the economic elite in the country, since Kuczynski was the embodiment of their power. Over the 20 months of his administration, Kuczynski (PPK) ruled with put a “technical” cabinet made up of important businesspeople and representatives of the financial world who lacked political experience.
That lack of political skill prevented him from taking on the Popular Force Party (FP), the powerful tool of Keiko Fujimori that, before her brother Kenji broke it, boasted a congressional majority. During the brief PPK government, the FP never ceased in its attempts to weaken it, despite the fact that they represented the same economic model. Keiko never got over losing the June 2016 runoff election by just 41,057, or 0.24%, of the vote.
At the end of last year, the FP joined the motion for impeachment on the basis of moral incompetence presented by the leftist Frente Amplio. This, after the Brazilian Congressional Lava Jato Commission gained access to evidence that demonstrated that Kuczynski received money from Odebrecht through First Capital and Westfield Capital companies – the latter belonging to Kuczynski – over his two terms as Minister of the Economy, and once as Prime Minister in the government of now-fugitive former president Alejandro Toledo. Marcelo Odebrecht also stated that he had transferred money to all of the political campaigns during the 2011 elections, including PPK’s.
To avoid impeachment, Kuczynski negotiated a pardon for expresident Alberto Fujimori and his son Kenji, a congressman from the same party as his sister Keiko. Kenji managed to get 10 congresspeople from the FP to unexpectedly abstain from the final vote, blocking impeachment. And just like that, on Christmas Eve, 72 hours after gaining the support of Kenji and his self-styled “avengers”, PPK pardoned Fujimori, using a tangle of deeply questionable procedures that he presented as a humanitarian pardon.
PPK not only pardoned Fujimori’s 25-year prison sentence for human rights violations – extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, aggravated kidnapping, and acts of corruption – but also granted him amnesty from prosecution in the trials he still has pending, including the massacre of Pativilca, where six people were murdered in 1992. Many PPK voters saw these measures as a betrayal, breaking the campaign promise that helped him defeat Keiko Fujimori in the runoff election.
Victims’ family members have asked the Interamerican Court of Human Rights to revoke the pardon as part of their supervision of other sentences (Barrios Altos and La Cantuta). On Feb. 20, the Judiciary’s National Criminal Court rejected the amnesty granted to Fujimori, which means he must continue the trial in which he is accused of masterminding the murder of the six community members and for which the prosecution is requesting a 25-year prison sentence. Fujimori fled to Japan in 2000, where he wrote his letter of resignation, which Congress rejected. He was impeached for moral incompetence.
New documents surfaced and a report from the Financial Intelligence Unit demonstrated how the First Capital and Westfield Capital companies received income from government suppliers, among them Odebrecht, while PPK held important public posts. This, and ex-Odebrecht representative Jorge Barata’s confirmation on Feb. 28 that he handed over funds to PPK’s 2011 campaign via his current ambassador to the United Kingdom, prompted the presentation of a new multi-party motion for impeachment. The motion was approved by 87 out of 130 votes. The congressional debate was scheduled for March 22, but was pre-empted by Kuczynski’s resignation one day prior in the face of the evidence on the videos presented by the FP.
Incriminating Videos and the Fall
The videos show how, acting on behalf of the government, Kenji Fujimori, his advisor Alexei Toledi and the “avengers” Bienvenido Ramírez and Guillermo Bocángel, convince Fuerza Popular congressman Moisés Mamani to vote against the impeachment motion in exchange for approval of public works projects in Puno, Mamani’s home district. Mamaní was also promised at least 5% in “fresh cash”, and the ability to appoint important public positions to exercise greater political control over his region. An audio recording related to the case, reveals Transportation and Communications Minister Bruno Giuffra agreeing with Mamaní to meet in Kuczynski’s home, telling him “you know how this thing goes.”
But the thing exploded in the government’s face like a grenade. They had no idea that the unknown Congressman Mamaní was an expert in security and espionage techniques, and had laid a trap for his bribers. Against this backdrop PPK resigned and portrayed himself as the victim of a political witch hunt.
In spite of the fact that every political party rejected the terms of his resignation, it was accepted and the Judiciary immediately approved the Prosecutor’s request to bar Kuczynski from leaving the country for 18 months, in addition to raids on his two homes in Lima.
On Feb. 23, First Vice President Martín Vizcarra assumed the presidency with a mandate to govern until 2021, as stipulated by the Peruvian constitution. The central message of his speech was to propose a social pact with congress to fight corruption and encourage democratic, unifying development. His decision to replace all eighteen Kuczynski cabinet ministers within ten days was applauded by Congress and celebrated by the public.
Unlike Kuczynski, Vizcarra is not a member of the Peruvian economic power elite. A civil engineer who studied at a public university, he was governor of the small region of Moquegua. The son of a teacher and husband to a woman of the same profession as his mother, he faces important challenges and difficulties. He does not belong to any political party, in a national context in which half of the country wants to get rid of allthe political parties.
The next few months will be critical, with new statements coming from the former Odebrecht representative in Peru and the prosecution focusing on bribes paid for specific public works contracts. The Interamerican Court of Human Rights will make a decision on Alberto Fujimori’s pardon, and in the event that it goes against the ex-president, it is unlikely that Vizcarra will decide to reject the Court’s competence.
President Vizcarra represents a momentary respite during a complex time of economic slowdown, increases in the foreign debt and the national deficit, and a drop in investment. In the political sphere, even though Congress will give him a grace period to govern, he must reach agreements to fight corruption, reform the political system, and particularly the electoral system in terms of preferential voting, party financing, transparency, and other aspects. He will also have to confront sectors that call for early elections.
Translation by Lindsey Hoemann.