Peruvian Passions: Why They tried to Remove President Kuczynski


There was attempts in Peru to impeach the current president, Pedro Kuczynski, for a corruption scandal. These attempts have as of yet not succeeded: after long discussions (in the order of 14 hours) only 78 deputies out of the necessary 87 voted in favour of removing him from his post. However, the numbers alone speak of a sad future for the president.  

The initiative for the impeachment was brought up by the representatives of several parliamentary parties, who think that the president dishonestly handled payments of 4,8 million dollars from the Brazilian building company Odebrecht and then used them for the enrichment of companies close to his person, who had provided ‘consultation services’ at the transactions.   
Kuczynski denies the allegations.

Who’s who

In the last elections the battle for the presidential seat was between Pedro Kuczynski from the ‘Peruvians for Change’ party and Keiko Fujimori, who represented the ‘People’s Power’ party. Kuczynski won with a slight majority. His main wager was made on ‘leftist’ voters and also on prosperous citizens and the middle class; Fujimori bet on the ‘rightists’ (her rhetoric didn’t, of course, get the necessary response). The corruption scandal surrounding Fujimori had a strong influence on the elections, as well as the negative associations with her father, under whose rule political killings and forced sterilisation of women took place and corruption was allowed to run rampant. At the time of writing the ex-dictator is imprisoned on a 25-year sentence.   
In addition, Kuczynski’s opponents initially noted that he is a lobbyist for the interests of large corporations. Among his election promises were the lowering of taxes, support for small businesses, and structural economic reforms. The president also promised to lower the poverty level and solve the problem of unemployment and low wages. He separately promised to secure access to clean drinking water for the Peruvian people, which is one of the country’s main issues. As we can see, nothing has been accomplished as of yet.

Specifics of Peru

We can say that at the current time there are no presidents and candidates in Peru who are free from the stain of corruption. Apart from Kuczynski and Fujimori, the ex-president Ollanta Humala, who was forced to leave his post in 2016, appeared in the unpleasant Odebrecht story. He was at the time accused of using funds from the Venezuelan government, Odebrecht, and the company OAS in order to finance the campaigns of the Peruvian Nationalist Party (2006 and 2011). Humala and his wife were sent to prison because of the scandal, as had earlier happened with Fujimori senior.  

Earlier, a Peruvian court had written an arrest warrant for another former president, Alejandro Toledo, also for bribes from Odebrecht. It is true that he got somewhat luckier; Toledo is currently hiding in Paris.

It is important to note that many countries other than Peru are plugged into the Odebrecht system of finances: Brazil, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Angola, Argentina, Ecuador, and others. As the TV-channel Telesur put it, “few could have expected that behind this successful business empire hides a network of corruption, which is systematically spreading through the entire region faster than the Zika virus, which has tortured Brazil the past few years.” The network explains that the main corruption problems began with the grandson of the company’s founder, Marselo Odebrecht, who by way deceit bribed the necessary politicians in the countries listed above in order to realise his own interests. 

However, it hasn’t always been this bad; as we know, there were once strong personalities in power, for example, Chavez and Peron, who left a serious ideological inheritance in their wake. Many Peruvians are nostalgic for strong and independent leaders, but there are no politicians who are comparable in political and charismatic power to them at this moment in Peru.

The American factor

Naturally, the US plays the most active role in the region: for example, a pro-American candidate rules in Argentina. There had long been a pro-Western parliament in Venezuela, but there are now clear attempts by Maduro to reorient the country in a Eurasian direction and keep its sovereignty.

Peru is of interest because of its geographic location (its airspace and the sea-lanes through the Pacific basin) and natural resources (valuable raw materials), and for its position in the geopolitical playing field (competition with the Bolivarian union and ALBA). 

Actually, both candidates in the last elections in Peru (Kuczynski and Fujimori) were backed by Washington. As we have noted, Kuczynski is a defender of large corporations and has worked in the World Bank, IMF, and transnational commercial ‘giants’, and Fujimori was educated in the US and is married to an American.

Until recently the Americans supported the Kuczynski regime. The modernisation of the Peruvian aircraft fleet continued, and (according to information from the local mass-media) secret US bases continue to operate in the Peruvian Amazon. Officially the US has an exclusive right to use Peru’s airports for military purposes.

The Chinese factor

We must also not forget the Chinese influence in the region. The day before, Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Peru, Ecuador, and Chile during his tour through Latin America. Naturally, Peking will not let an opportunity to strengthen its influence when American influence wanes, both in the economic and political spheres. In 2016 the countries signed trade agreements of 2 billion dollars (including deals in light industry, agriculture, medicine etc.) and are now planning further cooperation. As Xi Jinping noted, “China must discover the potential for growth in Latin America and the countries of the Caribbean”.    

It is not impossible that the rapprochement with China has become one of the reasons for Washington’s displeasure and the activation of the necessary instruments for a change of president. One of its instruments is the oppositionist Keiko Fujimori, who is still loyal to the US and, after the results of the election were made public, declared that she will “hold our chosen political course through the majority in congress”. As we can see, congress has already hinted to Kuczynski that an impeachment is not that far away.