President's impeachment: Is Peru more progressive than Ukraine in war against corruption?

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

Last week, 65 members of the Peruvian parliament voted to start impeachment proceedings against President Martin Vizcarra for 'moral incapacity.'
10:00, 15 September 2020


Last week, 65 members of the Peruvian parliament voted to start impeachment proceedings against President Martin Vizcarra for 'moral incapacity.' The reason for this decision was the public recordings of a conversation between Vizcarra and his assistants that no one should advertise his role in hiring singer Richard Cisneros (Richard Swing) by the Ministry of Culture to give public motivational lectures during the coronavirus pandemic. He has got about 50,000 dollars for his services. The parliament believes that the president used his official position to get Cisneros a job. Votes of 87 out of 130 MPs are needed to remove Vizcarra from power.

The vote to impeach Vizcarra leaves many questions. They want to remove the president from power without waiting for the results of the investigation into the Cisneros case. The singer himself claims that he was framed and blackmailed by a former employee of the presidential administration, who wanted to force him to talk about Viscarra in a negative way. Cisneros took part in the election campaign of ex-President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, in whose team Vizcarra combined the posts of First Vice President and Ambassador of Peru to Canada.

Ukraine should learn a lesson from this case – for many years the Peruvian judicial system has effectively prosecuted senior government officials who are steeped in corruption and no one is immune from justice in this country, not even the president.

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Political crisis

One gets the impression that the vote in the Peruvian parliament to impeach the president could have been politically motivated in the interests of his opponents. Viscarra took over as head of state in March 2018 following the resignation of President Pedro Kuczynski, implicated in a corruption scandal. The new head of state proclaimed a course to fight corruption and in the same year held a constitutional referendum to prohibit private structures from funding parties, deputies from being re-elected, and returning to the bicameral parliament that existed before the 1993 Constitution was adopted.

The parliament opposed the president's proposals and sabotaged his decisions. But the majority of citizens in a referendum supported all initiatives, except for the restoration of a bicameral parliament. MPs have already tried to initiate the impeachment procedure of the president in 2019, but Viscarra dissolved parliament. Following early parliamentary elections in January 2020, none of the parties won enough seats to form a majority.

The leader of the conservative People's Power Party, Keiko Fujimori, which is under investigation and suspected of money laundering, the head of the center-left Purple Party, Giulio Guzmán, want to promote the discredit of Viscarra and gain ratings for the presidential elections in 2021 (Viscarra does not plan to take part in them)... According to an Ipsos poll, Viscarra is supported by 60% of citizens, while parliament is only 32%. The current head of Peru does not deny that he is familiar with Cisneros, but claims that he did not contribute to his employment and is not going to retire.  

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For the most part, Peruvians hope that the president's actions will completely renew the political class and cleanse government agencies of corrupt officials amid the economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. This year, Peru's GDP has decreased by 30% (Peru's GDP per capita is 6,480 dollars, almost 50% more than in Ukraine). The country has one of the highest mortality rates from coronavirus (more than 30,000 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic).

Peruvian phenomenon

At first glance, the political scandal in Peru is not worth a damn. Viscarra is not the only president in the world who collaborates with representatives of the show business. The family of US President Donald Trump is familiar with singer and model Kim Kardashian, and she was invited to the White House as a speaker on the problem of employment and socialization of former prisoners. Trump spoke in the Oval Office with her husband, African American rapper Kanye West, about pressing social issues in the United States. West is running for president this year as a multi-state independent candidate, seemingly in Trump's best interest to split the base of Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who is counting on African American voters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin went even further. The Russian president is familiar with the founder of the Night Wolves biker club Alexander Zaldastanov, who became one of the founders of the Anti-Maidan movement, with the French actor Gerard Depardieu, for whom he sent a plane to deliver him to the annexed Crimea, with the American actor Stephen Segal, who was appointed to 2018 by the special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry for Russian-American humanitarian relations. For the foundation of the leader of the Lyube rock group Nikolai Rastorguev, of which Putin is a fan, 191.1 million rubles (2.55 million dollars) were allocated from the Moscow city budget to restore the facade of the building where his office is located. The amount that the Peruvian Ministry of Culture paid the singer Cisneros for motivational lectures may seem ridiculous in comparison with such a "gift".

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The whole point lies in the specifics of the judicial system of Peru, which is distinguished by its independence from the political environment, in contrast to the neighboring countries of South America. Historically, Peruvian courts have served the interests of the lower classes rather than the elite. Laura Bunt- MacRury, a senior lecturer in political and legal anthropology at the University of Bournemouth, UK, researched this issue and concluded that in the 20th century, in the Peruvian city of Cuzco, women of Indian descent from rural areas won the most cases in cases of rape and domestic violence.

After the agricultural reform of 1968, when large plantation estates were divided among the Indians, the Peruvian judicial system for decades became a stronghold of ordinary peasants who massively went to courts to defend their rights, and now control power and business in the interests of society. Since 2000, none of the presidents of Peru has managed to escape criminal responsibility for their crimes.

Former President Alberto Fujimori, Peruvian of Japanese descent, father of oppositionist Keiko Fujimori, is serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights violations, organizing death squads, and murdering political opponents, bribery of journalists, businessmen, and politicians.

During his reign, in 1990-2000, an authoritarian regime was established in Peru, but neoliberal reforms were carried out, the privatization of state-owned enterprises that ensured economic growth, the left-wing armed groups Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru were defeated, the territorial dispute with Ecuador was settled after the armed conflict. Fujimori wanted to run for a third term, which contradicted the Constitution, but in November 2000 parliament removed him from power after videos were released showing that the head of the National Intelligence Service of Peru, Vladimiro Montesinos, received a $ 15 million bribe for joining the presidential party "Peru 2000".

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Criminal cases have been brought against the presidents who ruled Peru from 2001 to 2018 for taking bribes from Odebrecht Brazilian construction company. From 2005 to 2014, the firm spent $ 30 million in bribes to secure contracts for the construction of a road connecting Peru with Brazil, a metro, new road sections along the coast in Lima, and a highway in Cuzco. Former President Ollanta Humala and his wife are imprisoned. Former President Pedro Kuczynski has been placed under house arrest. Former President Alan Garcia shot himself at home in the spring of 2019 while resisting arrest. For the time being, ex-President Alejandro Toledo, who is in the United States, has managed to avoid the Peruvian prison.

An investigation into the corruption schemes of Odebrecht has been ongoing since 2014. In total, the company spent $ 200 million on bribery in various Latin American countries. The company even had a special department in charge of corruption schemes and secret money transfers. Former President of Odebrecht Marcello Obebrecht knew how to negotiate with officials of different levels of government and, after his arrest, handed over all his partners in order to reduce his prison term - from 31 to several years. The former head of the Odebrecht office in Peru, Jorge Barata, also shared information with the investigation.

World trend

In recent years, the administration of justice over the high-ranking government officials who have stolen and discredited themselves has taken place in different countries of the world. In 2016, the South Korean parliament removed from power as a result of impeachment proceedings against President Park Geun-Hye under pressure from thousands of protests. She is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for sharing confidential information and consulting with sectarians, shamans, fortune-tellers and gigolo on government issues, including the termination of economic cooperation with North Korea, on the advice of her friend Choi Sun Sil intended to take a bribe in the amount of $ 6 billion from Lotte Group.

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A similar fate befell Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was ousted by parliament in August 2016. As president, she shielded her mentor, ex-Brazilian President Lulu da Silva, from justice, who devised a corruption scheme to provide state-owned Petrobras with contracts to construction firms in exchange for kickbacks to its leadership and funding the Workers' Party.

In April 2020, ex-President of Ecuador Rafael Correa was sentenced to 8 years in prison, who, together with 20 other officials, collected bribes worth $ 8 million in exchange for the provision of government contracts in 2012-2016. In July of this year, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was sentenced to 12 years in prison, who is accused of transferring $ 10 million from the state fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad, created on his initiative, to the accounts of related firms. This money was intended to stimulate the country's economic development and was deferred from oil sales.

For several years, ex-President of Argentina Cristina Kirchner has been involved in litigation related to corruption. This year, investigations were launched against the ex-presidents of the following countries: South Africa - Jacob Zuma, Mexico - Enrique Pena Nieto, Sudan - Omar al-Bashir. They are suspected of bribery and abuse of government powers.

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Lessons for Ukraine

The global trend and experience of Peru in the field of combating corruption in the highest echelons of power are very instructive for Ukraine, where political forces declaring the rule of law and the fight against bribery and nepotism are systematically at the epicenter of new scandals. During the presidency of Petro Poroshenko, a journalistic investigation of 2019 about the theft of hundreds of millions of hryvnias of the Ukroboronprom state defense company by the Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleh Gladkovsky and his son Ihor and the smuggling of spare parts for military equipment from Russia.

In 2014-2017, the media exaggerated corruption scandals in the case of "diamond prosecutors", on enrichment on the purchase of fuel and lubricants by the head of the State Emergencies Service Serhiy Bochkovsky and his first deputy Vasyl Stoetsky, on the assignment of 140 hectares of land with lakes near Kyiv by the Deputy Prosecutor General Anatoliy Danylenko. There were investigations about the bribery of the head of the State Employment Service Yaroslav Kashuba, about the enrichment of the former deputy from the National Front party Mykola Martynenko on the supply of power equipment from the Czech Republic for nuclear power plants, the embezzlement of funds from the state enterprise VostGOK, about the granting of tax deferrals by head of the State Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov to the companies of Oleksandr Onishchenko. As a rule, officials suspected of corruption have lost their posts, but investigations of corruption cases against them have not been completed.

MP Geo Leros, expelled from the Servant of the People faction, has published several videos in which a man who looks like the brother of the head of the President's Office, Andriy Yermak, negotiated appointments to various high offices for bribes. The former head of the President's Office, Andriy Bogdan, mentioned in the interview with journalist Dmytro Gordon that he had prevented the appointment of random people to government posts.

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Recently, 24-year-old Anna Kuchuk was appointed chief of staff of the Security Service chairman, with higher education in tourism and experience as a cashier, administrator of a shopping center, and manager for work with clients of a sports club, which has nothing to do with national security issues. Earlier, comedian Serhiy Syvokho was appointed to the post of Adviser to the National  State Defence Council Secretary on Reintegration and Reconstruction of Donbas.

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