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Peru’s President Pleads With Lawmakers Not to Impeach Him

Mr. Kuczynski said that at the time he was testifying in the inquiry, he was unaware that Odebrecht had done business with his company between 2004 and 2007. Last year, Odebrecht admitted to paying roughly $ 800 million in payoffs in exchange for lucrative projects, setting off a slew of investigations by prosecutors and lawmakers, principally in Latin America, to reveal who was on the receiving end of the payments.

Peru’s Congress argued that Mr. Kuczynski should be held accountable for receiving the funds, and voted last week to begin impeachment proceedings against him. The vote was introduced by the left-wing party Frente Amplio, which described Mr. Kuczynski as having “demeaned the presidency.”

During his testimony on Thursday, Mr. Kuczynski said he would be open to an investigation into his finances, but he urged members of Congress to vote against his impeachment, warning that the country would not benefit from a hasty decision.

“The people of a nation do not forget or forgive,” Mr. Kuczynski said.

His attorney, Alberto Borea, appeared alongside him and offered his own defense of the embattled leader during nearly two hours of testimony. “Not to impeach does not mean not to investigate,” Mr. Borea said. “The president puts himself at the disposal of the Public Ministry.”

Mr. Kuczynski’s political future is now in the hands of Congress, which is close to having the two-thirds majority — or 87 of 130 votes — needed to remove him from office. After his testimony, Mr. Kuczynski left the chambers and lawmakers began an hourslong debate about his future. Congress will then vote on whether to proceed on the motion to impeach Mr. Kuczynski.

If the vote does not reach a two-thirds majority, the motion is discarded. If approved, Congress will issue a resolution declaring the presidential vacancy, which will be printed in the state’s official newspaper, El Peruano, within 24 hours. When the resolution is published or is sent to the president — whichever occurs first — he will immediately leave office.

Mr. Kuczynski, who was given just days to formulate a defense after the impeachment proceeding were announced, maintained that the consulting services that Westfield Capital provided to Odebrecht did not give Odebrecht a competitive advantage in any dealings.

The president recently acknowledged being paid $ 380,000 by Westfield Capital between 2004 and 2007. He was prime minister of Peru from August 2005 to July 2006, and was economy and finance minister from February 2004 to August 2005.

At the time, the company was being managed by his business partner, Gerardo Sepúlveda, a Chilean. Mr. Kuczynski maintains that he did not personally approve any contracts with Odebrecht during that time.

Additionally, Mr. Kuczynski maintains that the consulting contracts between his company and Odebrecht involved no unlawful negotiations and were also signed by Peru’s largest private bank, Banco de Crédito del Perú.

The opposition argues that he broke rules on conflict of interest during his time in public office, both as prime minister and as economy and finance minister.

Before his testimony, Mr. Kuczynski gave a televised statement on Wednesday evening. With both of his vice presidents standing at his side, he declared that neither would accept the presidential office if he were impeached. If that situation occurred, the head of Congress would temporarily take the office and call for a general election.

“I confess that I have not been sufficiently organized, but I am not corrupt,” Mr. Kuczynski said in the televised address. “I apologize with clarity in my mind and heartbreak if I did not explain my professional conduct.”

Source: NYT > World

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