Constitutional and Criminal Charges Filed Against Peruvian President

President Martín Vizcarra attends the swearing-in of his cabinet. (flickr)

President Martín Vizcarra attends the swearing-in of his cabinet. (flickr)

Peruvian Congresswoman Yeni Vilcatoma of the Popular Force (FP) party brought constitutional and criminal charges against Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra on January 30. Following the corruption scandal and resignation of former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Vilcatoma said she is determined that the accused will “pronounce themselves in accordance with the law.”

Former President Kuczynski resigned in March 2018 after two votes for impeachment were made against him in the wake of corruption scandals involving bribery and vote-buying. Kuczynski was accepting bribes from Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction agency, which led to an investigation and the first failed impeachment vote against him.

During another investigation, a video surfaced showing Kuczynski’s legislative allies buying votes to defeat a second impeachment vote. Kuczynski resigned shortly after this video leaked. Vizcarra, then Vice President of Peru, was sworn into office that March.

Vilcatoma’s accusations, which were presented to the Peruvian Congress and the Subcommittee on Constitutional Accusations, look to Vizcarra’s time as acting Vice President and Minister of Transport and Communications under Kuczynski.

Article 126 of the Peruvian Constitution prohibits ministers from engaging in profitable activities or overseeing their own business interests while in office. Vilcatoma claims that while in office, Vizcarra took part in helping with the operations management within the company C and M Vizcarra. The criminal charges brought against him also claim that this company was in partnership with Odebrecht and that Vizcarra lied to the nation in January in saying that he had not been working with Odebrecht.

Vilcatoma’s charges have faced opposition by fellow members of Congress, provoking dissent within all parties, including her own.

Congresswoman Patricia Donayre from the Unidos por la República party (“United for the Republic”) stated that Vilcatoma “lamentably does not have legal support” to develop her accusations and is “looking for additional anecdotal evidence to support her claims.” Donayre was referencing Vilcatoma’s questioning of President Vizcarra’s actions and meetings on the day of his swearing-in ceremony.

Both Carlos Bruce and Carlos Turbino, important members of the same Popular Force party as Vilcatoma, publicly denounced her charges as well. Bruce challenged Vilcatoma’s claims, stating that they were “made in an absolutely irresponsible manner,” and lacking evidence. Turbino, a spokesperson for the party, says that the party “is not publicly recognizing the denouncement.”  

The Odebrecht scandal and consequential resignation of President Kuczynski has paralyzed the Peruvian economy, halting billions of dollars worth of construction projects. Vizcarra’s administration, which was thought to be a turning point for Peru with promises to stimulate the economy and end government corruption, may now be mired in a corruption scandal of its own.