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Facing Allegations Of Corruption, Peru's President Resigns


We're going to turn now to Peru, where that country's U.S.-backed president has resigned after just 19 months in office. Facing allegations of corruption and vote buying, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski stepped down a day before the Peruvian Congress was going to fire him. Reporter John Otis has more.

JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: President Kuczynski had been a strong U.S. ally while overseeing one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America. But ever since he was elected in 2016, he'd been dogged by corruption allegations. Opposition lawmakers who control Peru's Congress accused Kuczynski of receiving illegal payments from the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht when he was a government minister a decade ago. Odebrecht has admitted to having paid $800 million in bribes to obtain construction contracts in 10 Latin American countries, including Peru.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

OTIS: All this prompted Peru's Congress to try to impeach Kuczynski in December. He narrowly survived after agreeing to the demands of opposition lawmakers to pardon Alberto Fujimori. He's a former president who was serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights violations but remains popular among many Peruvians. In recent weeks, more evidence of Kuczynski's ties to Odebrecht emerged, and Congress had scheduled a second impeachment trial that was to begin today. It wasn't necessary.


FREDDY ARAGON: (Foreign language spoken).

OTIS: On Tuesday, this video surfaced showing a government official offering public works contracts to an opposition lawmaker in exchange for not impeaching Kuczynski.


ARAGON: (Foreign language spoken).

OTIS: He tells the lawmaker, "it's incredible how much money you can get, brother, without moving a finger." The video proved to be Kuczynski's undoing.


PEDRO PABLO KUCZYNSKI: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: In a televised address Wednesday, the president maintained he'd done nothing wrong but said the political crisis was causing enormous damage to the country.


KUCZYNSKI: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: He concluded by saying, "for the good of the country, I'm stepping down as president of the republic." Kuczynski's resignation comes just weeks before President Trump is due to visit Peru for a regional summit where one of the main topics will be corruption. Peru's vice president, Martin Vizcarra, is expected to be sworn in to replace Kuczynski later today. For NPR News, I'm John Otis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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