Thursday, March 22, 2018

PPK resigns amid scandal (March 22, 2018)

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski offered his resignation yesterday, amid a growing scandal regarding ties to a corruption plagued Brazilian firm. PPK denied wrongdoing, but said he would offer his resignation in order to avoid being an "obstacle" to the country, reports the Guardian. Just over a year and a half after assuming office, PPK is the first sitting president to be forced out due to links to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Lawmakers yesterday voiced anger that PPK did not apologize for wrongdoing, and could choose to reject his resignation and impeach him anyway, reports the New York Times.

Vice President Martín Vizcarra, who was serving as ambassador to Canada, is returning to Peru today to assume office, reports La República. He plans to maintain the upcoming Summit of the Americas meeting in Lima. Regional leaders had voiced concern over attending, but consider the resignation to be a democratic transition.

However half the population favored calling new elections in the event of PPK's resignation, even before the release of videos this week apparently incriminating PPK supporters in attempting to buy lawmakers' support, reports La República. Only 26 percent of the population supported Vizcarra finishing the current presidential term, through 2021.

Lawmakers were set to vote on impeachment proceedings against PPK today, in relation to consulting fees from Odebrecht. PPK denies wrongdoing, noting that the fees were paid when he did not hold political office. Nonetheless, his administration was marked by scandal and further hit this week with the release of videos in which a government official and supporters in congress apparently buying another lawmakers vote against impeachment, reports the Miami Herald.

Kuczynski was also harmed by a last minute Christmas pardon to former dictator Alberto Fujimori, which many observers considered a quid-pro-quo after his son Kenji Fujimori broke with the main opposition party in a December impeachment vote that PPK narrowly survived, reports the Washington Post.

The five lawmakers implicated in videos released this week -- including Kenji Fujimori -- will be the subject of a congressional commission that could oust them, reports La República. (See yesterday's briefs.) Government officials denied that the videos represented vote buying, and Kuczynski said they had been selectively edited to look bad. Kenji Fujimori said they reflected typical negotiations.

In the Miami Herald, Andrés Oppenheimer notes that while it's a sign of institutional strength that PPK resigned in relation to the Odebrecht corruption case, "there’s huge irony here: Other Latin American governments — such as Venezuela’s — were much more tainted by the same corruption scandal and haven’t suffered any consequences."

In the meantime, Peru's decision to exclude Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from the upcoming Summit of the Americas is causing a rift among the region's governments. Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the eastern Caribbean and a staunch Maduro supporter, said that "several countries are writing letters ... urging the president of Peru to not disinvite Maduro," reports the Miami Herald.

News Briefs
  • Veracruz journalist Leobardo Vázquez Atzin was killed yesterday in his home, the third Mexican reporter killed so far this year, reports Animal Político. An Artículo 19 report released this week found that attacks against the press rose to record levels under the Peña Nieto government's years in power. Since December 2012 there have been 1,986 attacks, a 212 percent increase in 7 years. Twelve reporters were killed last year, reports Animal Político. The report emphasizes the role that the government plays in the persistence of these crimes, notes InSight Crime. Though organized crime bears some of the blame, Article 19 clarifies that a large share of the blame also lies with corrupt government officials. Of the 1,986 cases of aggression against journalists documented in the last five years, 8 percent are thought to have been committed by members of organized crime groups, while 48 percent are attributed to government officials at the local, state and federal levels, explains InSight. The report did not specify the actors suspected in the remainder of the cases.
  • Mexican opposition presidential candidates, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Ricardo Anaya, have called for the country's electoral authority to investigate reports that Cambridge Analytica is operating in Mexico ahead of this year's elections, reports Animal Político. In November, Buzzfeed reported the company was staffing up to work on seven gubernatorial campaigns, though it was not legally registered with electoral authorities. (See briefs for Nov. 3, 2017.) AMLO has previously charged that Cambridge Analytica has carried out actions against his campaign, though it's not clear who employed the firm.
  • Nearly half of Mexico's voters, 46 percent, believe there will be fraud in the upcoming elections. And 40 percent believe their vote is not important in defining the country's path, reports Animal Político.
  • Social leaders in Colombia have become mortal victims at an alarming rate since the FARC peace agreement, reports InSight Crime. A total of 282 social leaders have been killed in Colombia between 2016 and the end of February 2018, an average of 11 per month. And nearly a third of these killings occurred in 2017 alone. Most of these deaths can be ascribed to a realigning of the country's criminal underworld after the FARC demobilization, and struggles to control territories (coca cultivation and illegal mining) formerly under guerrilla domination.
  • Though the new FARC's results in recent legislative elections were bad, their transformation into a political party is an inescapable step in achieving a lasting peace in the country, argues Darío Villamizar in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Guyanese campaigners have legally challenged oil companies preparing to drill off their country's shores. The citizens' group is funding the battle against oil giants Exxon Mobil, Hess Corporation and Nexen through the crowdfunding site CrowdJustice, reports the Guardian. Campaigners say the companies lack the necessary environmental permit, making their licenses illegal. Their actions are interfering in one of the most sought after prospects in the oil world.
  • Brazilian environmental campaigners highlighted the life-threatening drought and contamination faced by communities in the world's most water-rich country. They participated in an alternative forum in Brasilia, outside the World Water Forum held by technical experts, reports the Guardian. They emphasized the mortal attacks campaigners often face as they seek to defend communities' environments. 
  • Brazilian football star Ronaldinho joined the PRB party, with links to a conservative Evangelical church. He might make a run for Congress, though his World Cup commitments would likely interfere, reports the Guardian.
  • Venezuela's Petro is not very solid, but the idea of a cryptocurrency to target hyper-inflation is promising, according to the Economist.

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