Peru’s embattled president Kuczynski announces resignation

Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski addresses the nation as he resigns at the Presidential Palace in Lima, Peru March 21, 2018. (Peruvian Government Palace)
Updated 22 March 2018
0

Peru’s embattled president Kuczynski announces resignation

LIMA: Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski announced his resignation Wednesday in an address to the nation, the day before he was to face an impeachment vote in Congress.
The 79-year-old former Wall Street banker, under fire over his links to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, denied allegations of bribe-taking but said his resignation was “the best thing for the country.”
Kuczynski is the first president to lose his job over the scandal in which the Brazilian company admitted paying out millions of dollars in bribes and gifts to Latin American politicians and businessmen to secure public works contracts.
His resignation comes a few weeks before Kuczynski was due to host the Summit of the Americas in Lima, where US President Donald Trump and others leaders of the Western Hemisphere are expected April 13-14.
“Faced with this difficult situation that unfairly makes me appear guilty, I think the best thing for the country is for me to resign the presidency of the republic,” he said in the televised address, which showed him seated at a polished conference table with his cabinet standing grim-faced behind him.
“I do not want to be an obstacle, for the country to continue suffering with the uncertainty of these recent times,” said the president, who survived a previous impeachment vote in December.
The Congress said it would debate the resignation on Thursday and vote on Friday on whether to accept it.
Vice President Martin Vizcarra, who is currently serving as Peru’s ambassador to Canada, is likely to replace Kuczynski to avoid early elections at a time of widespread voter discontent with political parties.
Vizcarra, who is expected in Lima on Thursday, would hold the post until July 2021, when Kuczynski’s mandate was due to end.
Pressure built on Kuczynski to resign throughout Wednesday after the opposition alleged the embattled president was trying to buy votes ahead of the impeachment ballot.
Lawmakers from Keiko Fujimori’s Popular Force party released recordings of her brother Kenji and others apparently negotiating public works contracts in return for votes, and said it was proof that Kuczynski was trying to buy votes.
“This government thought it could buy everything. There will always be brave and worthy Peruvians who are not for sale. It’s time to tell Mr.PPK that he’s leaving, and NOW!” Keiko Fujimori tweeted, using the president’s initials.
The videos, dating from December, were filmed ahead of the previous impeachment vote, which Kuczynski survived with Kenji Fujimori’s help.
Days later, Kuczynski pardoned the Fujimoris’ imprisoned father, ex-president Alberto Fujimori, in what was widely seen as a payoff for support.
The government denied vote-buying.
The bitter feud between the Fujimori siblings — on opposite sides for the first impeachment vote — is likely to continue to be a feature of Peruvian politics.
Vizcarra will have the same challenges as Kuczynski, posed by an opposition-dominated Congress bent on undermining the government.
One compromising video purported to show Kenji trying to convince another Fujimori lawmaker to vote against impeachment in December, in exchange for political favors.
“With deep disappointment and pain, Peru is once again witnessing negotiations for the purchase of Congressmen, and I regret even more that my own brother is involved in these practices that hurt us so much as Peruvians and as a family,” Keiko wrote on Twitter.
Her brother snapped back with a Tweet that attacked “the baseness and criminal attitudes of Popular Force and my sister Keiko” accusing them of “distorting information.”
Kuczynski said during the week he was confident of defeating the impeachment vote.
On Sunday, Kuczynski said removing him would amount to a “coup d’etat” in the South American country — and tarnish Peru’s image just before it is due to host the Summit of the Americas.
Odebrecht has admitted spending millions to bribe government officials across Latin America to secure public works contracts.
Other politicians to lose their posts include Ecuador’s former vice president Jorge Glas. He was jailed for six years.
The Supreme Court last week cleared the way for Peru to formally request the extradition of former president Alejandro Toledo from the US.
Toledo, 71, is to face charges of accepting a staggering $20 million in bribes from Odebrecht.
Odebrecht said it paid five million dollars in fees to companies linked to Kuczynski when he was Peru’s economy minister, under Toledo.
He was accused of lying about his ties to Odebrecht, but later admitted he had taken the money for what he and the company insist were legitimate consulting fees.
The scandal, which has dogged the president over the past six months, finally became too much for the elderly politician when it became increasingly clear he could not survive the impeachment vote.
“This political confrontation has created a climate of ungovernability which has done huge damage to the country and does not allow us to make progress,” he said with regret in his voice during his address.
He leaves behind an economy that has performed well below expectations.
“We are seeing a complicated picture because the economy is feeling the impact of the political instability linked to the president,” economist Jorge Gonzalez Izquierdo told AFP.


Women take fall in Nobel scandal for man’s alleged misdeeds

Updated 39 min 46 sec ago
0

Women take fall in Nobel scandal for man’s alleged misdeeds

  • 18 women have accused Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden who is married to a poet who is a member of the academy
  • Sex-abuse scandal has forced the ouster of its first-ever woman head and tarnished the reputation of the coveted prize

STOCKHOLM: Thousands of protesters called Thursday for the resignation of the secretive board that awards the Nobel Prize in Literature after a sex-abuse scandal linked to the prestigious Swedish academy forced the ouster of its first-ever woman head and tarnished the reputation of the coveted prize.
The ugly internal feud has already reached the top levels of public life in the Scandinavian nation known for its promotion of gender equality, with the prime minister, the king and the Nobel board weighing in.
On Thursday evening, thousands of protesters gathered on Stockholm’s picturesque Stortorget Square outside the headquarters of the Swedish Academy, which has awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901, to demand all of its remaining members resign. Parallel demonstrations were planned in Goteborg, Helsingborg, Eskilstuna, Vasteras, and Borgholm.
The national protests have grown out of what began as Sweden’s own #MeToo moment in November when the country saw thousands of sexual misconduct allegations surfacing from all walks of life. It hit the academy when 18 women came forward with accusations against Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden who is married to Katarina Frostenson, a poet who is a member of the academy.
Police are investigating the allegations, which Arnault denies, but the case has exposed bitter divisions within the academy, whose members are appointed for life, and given rise to accusations of patriarchal leanings among some members.
The turmoil began when some of the committee’s 18 members pushed for the removal of Frostenson after the allegations were levied against her husband, who runs a cultural club that has received money from the academy. In addition to sexual misconduct, Arnault is also accused of leaking Nobel winners’ names for years.
After a closed-door vote failed to oust her, three male members behind the push — Klas Ostergren, Kjell Espmark and Peter Englund — themselves resigned. That prompted Horace Engdahl, a committee member who has supported Arnault, to label them a “clique of sore losers” and criticize the three for airing their case in public.
He also lashed out at Sara Danius, the first woman to lead the Swedish Academy, who was forced out last week amid criticism from male members of her handling of the scandal. Danius, a Swedish literature historian at Stockholm University, had cut the academy’s ties with Arnault and hired investigators to examine its relationship to the club he ran with Frostenson. Their report is expected soon.
Supporters of Danius have described her as progressive leader who pushed reforms that riled the old guard.
At Thursday’s protests, many participants wore pussy-bow blouses like the ones worn by Danius. The high-necked blouses with a loosely tied bow at the neck have become a rallying symbol for those critical of the Swedish Academy’s handling of the case.
Birgitta Hojlund, 70, who traveled several hours to attend the protest, said despite Sweden’s progressive image, women still face inequality. “There are still differences, in wages and in honors and in professions,” she said, calling for the Swedish academy to be “recreated from the bottom, and balance male and female.”
“They’re pushing women away, saying that sexism is OK, in this academy,” agreed Torun Carrfors, a 31-year-old nurse. “They should leave, and we need to have new ones.”
Last week, Frostenson announced she too was leaving the academy. On Thursday, a sixth member, writer Lotta Lotass, said she was also planning to step down, citing backlash from tradition-minded male members of the board who questioned her credentials, the Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported.
The departures of the highly respected women have given rise to a flurry of protests on social media.
“Feminist battles happen every day,” wrote Swedish Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, who posted a picture of herself last week wearing a white pussy-bow blouse like those worn by Danius. Other Swedish women also posted pictures of themselves in the blouses as anger grew over Danius’ departure, including Social Affairs Minister Annika Strandhall, actress Helena Bergstrom and fashion designer Camilla Thulin.
The public controversy has also given rise to concerns about the Swedish Academy losing its credibility and tarnishing the reputation of the Nobel Prize.
“The Swedish Academy is an internationally acclaimed organization and it should stand for all the right values and at the present moment I don’t think they do,” said Carsten Greiff, a 32-year-old business developer, attending Thursday’s protest. “It’s dragging the international view of the Nobel Prize in the dirt.”
King Carl XVI Gustaf said the resignations “risked seriously damaging” the academy, while Prime Minister Stefan Lofven emphasized the academy’s importance to Sweden and urged its members to “restore faith and respect.”
“Trust in the Swedish Academy has been seriously damaged,” the Nobel Foundation said of the situation, while demanding the group take action to restore that trust.
Despite the resignations the academy, founded by King Gustav III in 1786, does not currently have a mechanism for its lifetime-appointed board members to step down.
The king — the academy’s patron, who must approve its secret votes— said Wednesday in the wake of the recent events he wants to change rules to allow resignations.
“The number of members who do not actively participate in the academy’s work is now so large that it is seriously risking the academy’s ability to fulfill its important tasks,” he said.