LIMA – Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra warned of “unpredictable consequences” on Monday as Congress launched an impeachment trial over corruption allegations, the second such effort to oust him in a matter of months.
Vizcarra, 57, is expected to survive once again, though the independent – who has long campaigned against official graft – lacks a party in a fragmented Congress, creating a degree of uncertainty of how lawmakers may finally vote.
The world’s No. 2 copper producer has had a history of political upheaval and drama.
Vizcarra has denied as “baseless” and “false” the latest allegations that he accepted bribes from companies that won public works contracts when he was the governor of the southern region of Moquegua.
“The worst thing we can do right now is plunge the country into instability,” he said in his defense before Congress on Monday. He warned lawmakers that impeaching him just months ahead of the April 11 presidential election would have dire economic consequences.
To remove the president, Congress must gather 87 votes out of 130 legislators. In the September vote, only 32 in the chamber voted in favor of his ouster.
The debate and vote is slated for Monday afternoon.
“In the last few weeks, I have been systematically attacked, through the dissemination of reports whose main objective is to damage the trust that the Peruvian people have placed in me,” Vizcarra said in a statement on Sunday, ahead of the trial.
Vizcarra’s term runs out mid-2021 after the April elections, in which he is not eligible to run.
If Vizcarra is dismissed on grounds of “moral incapacity,” the head of Congress, Manuel Merino, would assume the presidency.
Already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Peruvian business groups have called for “prudence.”
“It is necessary to prioritize stability and calm; a drastic change in the leadership of the nation would not be the most convenient at this juncture,” the powerful corporate body CONFIEP said in a statement.