* Opposition controls enough seats to remove Kuczynski from
* Kuczynski aware he likely will not survive, gov't source
* Vice President Martin Vizcarra would replace Kuzynski if
* Impeachment could happen within a week, head of Congress
(Recasts; adds context on Odebrecht scandal and Peru politics)
By Marco Aquino and Mitra Taj
LIMA, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Peru's
opposition-ruled Congress filed a motion on Friday to impeach
center-right President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on grounds he was
morally unfit to lead after he resisted calls to resign over
Kuczynski vowed to fight for his political life in a defiant
speech just before midnight on Thursday and denied anything
improper about payments that a company he owns received a decade
ago from scandal-plagued Brazilian builder Odebrecht.
But a government source said Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former
Wall Street banker, and his Cabinet were aware that his chances
of holding onto power were slim.
By refusing to resign, Kuczynski hopes he can clear his name
of the graft allegations and defend due process, said a source
who asked not to be named. Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio
told Kuczynski he is planning to resign, the source and a second
government source said.
"The less harmful option for Peru would be his resignation.
He's forcing us to impeach him," said opposition lawmaker
Odebrecht has rocked Latin American politics with its public
confession in a leniency deal a year ago that it orchestrated
sophisticated kickback schemes across a dozen countries for more
than a decade - landing elites in jail from Colombia to the
Dominican Republic and nearly toppling a president in Brazil.
Now banned from new bids in Peru, the company once won
lucrative contracts and built ambitious projects across the
South American country, from a highway that stretched from the
Pacific Ocean to the Amazon to a 12-mile-long irrigation tunnel
it drilled through the Andes.
Two former presidents in Peru, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro
Toledo, have been ensnared in the Odebrecht probe over
allegations they deny. Humala was jailed pending trial in July
and authorities are now seeking Toledo's extradition from the
Opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, whom Kuczynski
unexpectedly defeated in last year's presidential election, is
also under investigation and denies wrongdoing.
LEADER SAYS VICTIM OF AUTHORITARIAN REVIVAL
Kuczynski, who would be the first sitting president toppled
in the Odebrecht scandal, was once lauded by many as a brilliant
technocrat who would clean up widespread corruption in Peru. But
his 16-months in office have been marked by clashes with the
opposition and slowing economic growth.
Peru's central bank chief Julio Velarde said he did not
think the crisis would have major impacts on Peru's growth or
investments, and suggested he felt let down by Kuczynski.
"I used to have a very good image of him, but I'll leave it
at that," Velarde told journalists when asked on Friday if
Kuczynski had disappointed him.
Opposition lawmakers control enough seats to remove
Kuczynski from office with 87 out of 130 votes required in the
single-chamber Congress. Luis Galarreta, the president of
Congress, said that could happen as soon as Thursday of next
As recently as last month, Kuczynski, a former prime
minister and finance minister in Toledo's government, denied
taking money from Odebrecht or having any professional links to
But this week Odebrecht sent Congress a requested report in
which it detailed deposits totaling about $800,000 to Westfield
Capital Ltd, Kuczynski's company, and about $4 million to First
Capital Inversiones y Asesorias, a firm controlled by a close
friend of Kuczynski.
Kuczynski said on Thursday that he did not manage Westfield
when it received the deposits because he was in public office.
He acknowledged providing financial services for an Odebrecht
project as a consultant for First Capital.
If Kuczynski is ousted, the constitution requires him to be
replaced by First Vice President Martin Vizcarra, a former
governor of a copper-rich mining region and Peru's current
ambassador to Canada.
The first government source said Vizcarra would likely make
Cabinet changes to assuage the main opposition party, Popular
Force, made up of the rightwing followers of jailed former
authoritarian President Alberto Fujimori and his family.
Kuczynski has sought to portray himself as a victim of what
many in Peru view as Popular Force's bid to sabotage
institutions in the country's relatively recent return to
democracy. In recent weeks, Popular Force has proposed
legislation to oust the attorney general and justices in the
country's top court.
"That strategy includes toppling the president of the
Republic," said ruling party lawmaker Gino Costa. "We demand his
right to defend himself is respected."
(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Mitra Taj; Editing by Rosalba
O'Brien and Andrew Hay)
First Published: 2017-12-15 08:57:47
Updated 2017-12-15 23:34:47
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