President Kuczynski: A New Day

President Kuczynski arrives at Congress, with his first vice-president Martin Vizcarra and second vice-president Mercedes Araoz. Source: Andina

In a brief address to the nation Friday evening, President Pedro Pablo Kuzcynski  assessed the “extremely difficult test” he faced in Congress a day earlier when the majority opposition were determined to impeach him on charges of “permanent moral incapacity.”

“Today we all know the results, we can say with tranquility and pride that our democracy remains standing… but it could have all ended differently. We were very close to going down a path that would have been deeply harmful to our political coexistence and the economy,” the President said.

He was saved from impeachment by 21 abstentions.  The Fuerza Popular party was unable to garner the necessary 87 votes, in part because some of the other parties decided to abstain at the last minute but more importantly, because it lost nine of its own members who, led by Kenji Fujimori, voted to abstain.

“We’ve opted to not support the vacancy by voting to abstain. We will give priority to strengthening the president’s administration before leading the country into uncertainty,” Fujimori said in a video he shared on social media.   He convinced nine others in the party to follow, and vote against his sister Keiko’s wishes.

The Apra party also lost two of its five votes to abstention.  Both parties have already begun proceedings to punish their lawmakers for not toeing the party line.

Even early on the day of the impeachment debate, Fuerza Popular appeared to have most of the votes, although during the week a growing number of political analysts, legal specialists and journalists began to publicly express concern about the disregard for due process, and the unusual urgency being called for by Keiko Fujimori’s Fuerza Popular majority.

The process was being described as a “vacancy express”, and a coup d’etat.   Investigative journalist Gustavo Gorriti called it a “lynching,” in one of “the most toxic and serious” moments in Peru’s history.   But as well as the concern for due process was the real concern that the presidential vacancy could cause chaos, harm the economy, and allow total control by the Fujimorista party of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches.

A presidential vacancy would have required general elections, preferably in April 2018, but that would allow Fuerza Popular full reign for close to six months before a new president would be sworn in.

The President was being given virtually three days to set up his defense for allegations of corruption that might have taken place 12 years earlier. The key word was Odebrecht, the Brazilian project development firm mired since 2016 in a bribery scandal that has touched several Latin American countries.

The President addressed Congress Thursday morning more clearly and in greater detail than he had in a press interview on Sunday, heavily criticized, and at other moments in the week.

“He’s a terrible communicator,” said journalist and lawyer Rosa Maria Palacios.

Kuzcynski has admitted to earning dividends at the time, invoiced and taxed both in the U.S. and Peru, but that he had done nothing wrong, there were no conflicts of interest. He has asked the Congress to continue investigations,  and requested that the District Attorney’s office lift his banking secrecy.

“Neither my company nor I have signed contracts with the State.  Everything I have achieved in my life has been due to my efforts and honest work. I am here today before you, to tell you as I look straight at you, that I am not corrupt and I have not lied,” the President said.

“What is at stake here is not the impeachment, it is democracy and the stability of a prosperous country,” Kuczynski told the Congress

Defense lawyer and constitutionalist Alberto Borea. Source: Andina

The President’s defense was then taken up by his lawyer, Alberto Borea, a renowned law professor and constitutionalist who spoke for over an hour and a half.  He gave what his colleagues are describing as a master class in law and politics, “the best discourse in 30 years” in the Congress.  A former senator and an outspoken critic of Alberto Fujimori’s “auto-coup” in 1992, Borea appealed in down-to-earth words but also quoted Raymond Arond, Montesquieu, Aristotle and  Burke, leading to comments on Twitter that he was probably talking way over the heads of most of the lawmakers present.

“I invite all of us to open our bank accounts in Peru and abroad.  Anyone who believes they can cast the first stone, open up your accounts.  Investigate, but do not impeach him,” Borea said.

The debate that followed, which few times was on a par with Borea’s words,  went on until just after 11:15pm. The day had started at 9am.

In his address on Friday night, President Kuczynski recognized that the votes that saved him from impeachment were those of different men and women —his own PPK party only has 18 members in Congress — “to whom I owe my recognition, my gratitude and respect.”

“I have listened with humility and attention and have taken due note of what they said.  In these very difficult days I have learned more than in many moments of my life.  I have learned about myself and about my mistakes, errors that I shall not repeat, and I have been privileged to witness unity, loyalty and valor.

After almost 15 hours of debate, PPK congress members celebrate the win.

“But we will be able to achieve nothing without coming together.  The unity that lamentably we do not have today, I will never stop trying to build. The time has come as a country to give ourselves the opportunity for a sincere reflection and open up a new stage.  Reflection, conciliation.  Let’s be clear — no government can make the legitimate hopes of the people become a reality if we maintain the polarized and hostile atmosphere that we are living today.”

Rosa Maria Palacios, however, warned that the President “cannot make the same mistake. One thing is to have an adversary, it is another to have an enemy,” referring to the President’s constant attempt to approach and appease Keiko Fujimori and her party.  “They are the enemy,” Palacios said.

Journalist Cesar Hildebrandt also warned Kuczynski that “the people want a president who confronts the Fujimoristas,” adding that Peru feels different today, “understand the message.”

One of the first changes the President needs to make, say several analysts, is a major cabinet shift, to remove those who have not been loyal in recent weeks, and also those who are basically pro Keiko Fujimori.

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  1. Then he pardons Fujimori…what an idiot.

  2. Enrique Woll Battistini says:

    President Kuczynski was Impeached; but his Impeachment did not lead to his removal from office. His apparent Illegal conduct between 2004 and 2007 when President of Proinversión, Minister of the Economy, and/or Prime Minister during the Toledo Administration and afterwards, involving consulting services by his sole proprietorship Westfield Capital, a U.S. Corporation, rendered to Odebrecht and other Government Contractors; Refusal to appear before the pertinent Lava Jato Congressional Investigative Committee; and Repeated public falsehoods in connection therewith, were the root causes of the Impeachment Motion acted on by Congress which narrowly failed to pass when ten Fuerza Popular Congressmen agreed to vote against it in an obvious political move aimed at impeding the ouster of the president in exchange for a Presidential Pardon to be conferred on ex President Alberto Fujimori who at that point was still serving a 25 year prison term for Crimes Against Humanity, Financial Crimes, and others. In sum, the law prohibits a sitting Public Officer from profiting directly or indirectly from any business activity, including but not limited to the cited case. The Presidential Pardon conferred on Alberto Fujimori has resulted in generalized national outrage, adding to the Governance vacuum and Governability crises, and to a suspiciously-timed Judicial Reform which has removed the aggressive Judge in charge of the Oderecht proceedings, Concepción Carhuancho, with a new court and judges named in their place. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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