* Opposition controls enough seats to remove Kuczynski from
* Kuczynski aware he likely will not survive, gov't source
* Vice President Martin Vizcarra would replace Kuczynski if
(Recasts after motion for presidential vacancy was approved)
By Marco Aquino and Mitra Taj
LIMA, Dec 15 (Reuters) - President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's
chances of surviving the political crisis gripping Peru faded on
Friday after Congress passed a motion to start "presidential
vacancy" procedures with enough votes to unseat him within a
The opposition-controlled Congress voted 93-17 on Friday to
seek his removal from office over graft allegations, which he
denies. Eighty-seven votes will be needed to oust him in a
session scheduled for Dec. 21, when he will be asked to defend
A Brazilian construction company at the center of Latin
America's biggest graft scandal disclosed this week payments
totaling $4.8 million to companies owned by Kuczynski or a close
friend, triggering calls for him to resign.
Kuczynski had previously denied any links to the Brazilian
company, Odebrecht, and said on Thursday there was nothing
improper about the payments. Flanked by his Cabinet, Kuczynski
vowed not to resign in a defiant message to the nation.
However, Kuczynski was aware his chances of surviving the
scandal were slim, said a government source who asked not be
identified. By resisting calls to step down, he hopes to clear
his name and defend due process as the Odebrecht graft
investigation widens, the source said.
"This is a national disgrace," said opposition lawmaker
Lourdes Alcorta. "The less harmful option for Peru would be his
resignation. He's forcing us to impeach him."
Odebrecht has rocked politics in Latin America since
agreeing a year ago to provide details on bribery schemes across
the region - landing elites in jail from Colombia to the
Dominican Republic and nearly toppling a president in Brazil.
Two former presidents in Peru, Ollanta Humala and Alejandro
Toledo, have been ensnared in the Odebrecht probe over alleged
payments they deny. Humala was jailed pending trial in July and
authorities are seeking Toledo's extradition from the United
Opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, whom Kuczynski
unexpectedly defeated in last year's presidential election, is
also under investigation and denies wrongdoing.
If Kuczynski is forced out, he would be replaced by First
Vice President Martin Vizcarra, a former governor of a
copper-rich mining region and Peru's current ambassador to
Kuczynski was once lauded by many as a brilliant technocrat
who would help uproot widespread corruption in Peru. But his 16
months in office have been marked by clashes with the right-wing
opposition party that controls Congress.
Kuczynski said late on Thursday he was the owner, but not
the manager, of a company paid by Odebrecht while he held senior
government posts. He also acknowledged providing financial
services for an Odebrecht project as a consultant for a friend's
firm when he did not hold public office.
The opposition slammed the explanation as too little, too
late. "It's really unfortunate that President Kuczynski has put
the country in this situation," said congresswoman Cecilia
(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Mitra Taj; Editing by Rosalba
O'Brien, Andrew Hay and Paul Tait)
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