LIMA – Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski implored legislators on Thursday to oppose impeachment motion he said was based on lies.
The bid to impeach the conservative head of state began last Friday, when a broad coalition of opposition lawmakers presented a bill to declare Kuczynski’s “permanent moral incapacity” due to his failure to disclose payments by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to a company he owned.
“There are people trying to convince you of a lie that does not exist,” Kuczynski said in an address to the unicameral legislature hours before Thursday’s vote on impeachment.
“The strategy is obvious, they don’t want to debate because the affirmation is weak, it’s not corroborated, tested, or proven,” he said of the allegations tying him to Odebrecht, which has acknowledged paying $788 million in bribes to win public works in countries around the world.
“What’s at stake is not my permanence in office, what’s at stake is democratic stability. Don’t support a removal without foundation. Because the people don’t forget or forgive,” the president told lawmakers.
The impetus behind the impeachment comes from the right-wing Popular Party, with 71 of the 130 seats in the assembly. The party is led by Keiko Fujimori, daughter of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori, currently serving a life sentence for human rights abuses and corruption.
Pro-impeachment forces have cited as evidence Kuczynski’s written statements to the congressional committee investigating the Odebrecht case.
While the president denied having received money from Odebrecht, the panel said last Wednesday that it had documents showing that the Brazilian firm paid Kuczynski’s financial-consulting business, Westfield Capital Ltd., more than $782,000 between 2004 and 2007.
During those years, Kuczynski served as economy minister and prime minister in the 2001-2006 administration of President Alejandro Toledo.
The president said on Thursday that during his tenure with the Toledo administration, he turned over management of Westfield to then-business partner Gerardo Sepulveda, and that it was the latter who signed the consulting contract with Odebrecht.
Kuczynski said that he was unaware at the time of the work for Odebrecht, as he had erected a “Chinese wall” between himself and Westfield’s operations.
Moreover, he added, payments from Odebrecht amounted to less than 1 percent of Westfield’s total income during the period 2004-2012.
The law and the constitution mandate that an individual cannot manage a private company while working in government, but there is no requirement to divest ownership, the president said.
“I have never had a professional link with Odebrecht; that was Westfield, which I didn’t run in those years. I have had no business relationship with the builder and its consortium partners,” Kuczynski said.
Regarding questions about Odebrecht payments to another company, Sepulveda-owned First Capital, the president said that he did some consulting work for the Peruvian firm in 2012, when he was not in government.
Congress is expected to vote on the impeachment motion late Thursday.