January, 9 2019 (BN Americas)
Since winning massive support in a referendum last month, President Martín Vizcarra has promulgated political and legal reforms aimed at combatting corruption.
President Vizcarra, who has made the fight against corruption the cornerstone of his government since taking office in March 2018, enacted into law reforms in campaign financing; a ban on congressional reelection; and new rules for how senior judges are chosen.
Peruvians gave near-unanimous backing for Vizcarra’s proposals in a December 9 referendum, proposed in the wake of the Odebrecht scandal and revelations of widespread influence-peddling among judges, lawmakers, cabinet ministers and business executives.
“The promulgation of the three reforms is a fundamental step towards building a solid democracy with efficient institutions that are free of corruption,” Vizcarra said in a press conference at the presidential palace in Lima on Wednesday.
“We’re entering a decisive time. We can’t back down from the fight against corruption, which is costing the country 10bn soles per year [US$3bn].”
The promulgation came a day after controversial attorney general Pedro Chávarry, one of Vizcarra’s most hardline opponents, resigned amid corruption allegations. Chávarry was linked in leaked phonetaps to other senior judges accused of influence peddling.
Chávarry’s replacement, supreme court judge Zoraida Ávalos, promptly declared the special prosecutor’s office in a state of emergency.
“The attorney general’s resignation was a step forward,” Vizcarra said. “Another important step is that the institution itself has declared a state of emergency. The office requires reforms.”
The judiciary has reviewed only half of the 41,000 phonetap audios to date, Ávalos told local broadcaster Radioprogramas. The attorney general’s office has created a team to comb through the audios to detect whether any other government officials are involved in cases of corruption, she said.
Meanwhile, opposition party Fuerza Mayor, which forced out Vizcarra’s predecessor last year, was further weakened with the resignation of congress president Daniel Salaverry from the party following a series of high-profile defections and charges of illegal campaign financing from Odebrecht.
Odebrecht, which in December 2016 admitted to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to secure contracts across Latin America, operated dozens of infrastructure concessions in Peru awarded by governments including those of former Presidents Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), Alan García (2006-2011) and Ollanta Humala (2011-2016).
All three former heads of state, in addition to Vizcarra’s predecessor Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and jailed opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, are under investigation for allegedly money laundering, charges they all deny.