Much ado about nothing

Peruvian Congress withdraws process to impeach President Vizcarra amid economic and health crises.

Another week, another political scandal in Latin America. This time, it’s the turn of Peru where an opposition legislator, Edgar Alarcón, recently presented Congress with audio recordings that allegedly implicate President Martín Vizcarra in obstructing an investigation into USD 50,000 of government contracts handed to a little-known singer. Not satisfied with just health and economic crises, Congress decided a political crisis was missing and consequently voted for impeachment proceedings to begin on the grounds of “moral incapacity”.

A week later, following a 10-hour debate last Friday, Congress decided it might be best to focus on fighting the pandemic rather than each other and voted not to impeach the President. A former Minister of Defence for Peru fumed, “It’s clear that these institutions and leaders are not worthy of the positions they hold.” A political analyst in Peru agrees, “Seeking Presidential vacancy 7 months before elections in the midst of a pandemic is irresponsible.”

“These institutions and leaders are not worthy of the positions they hold.”

Former Minister of Defence, Peru.

To explain this debacle, it’s important to understand the political context. Firstly, Vizcarra was elected in part due to a strong stance against corruption. He has followed through with actions including a reform to ban convicted criminals from standing for election – the opposition -dominated Congress didn’t like this!

Edgar Alarcón, who presented the recordings, is also worth a closer look. The international press mostly failed to report that the Congressman for Arequipa currently stands accused of collusion, embezzlement, bribery and illicit enrichment by the Attorney General’s Office. Only his parliamentary immunity is preventing him from standing trial and potentially facing 17 years in jail. The political analyst comments, “It is unheard of that those under investigation become investigators in Congress.”

“It is unheard of that those under investigation become investigators in Congress.”

Political Analyst, Peru.

The former Minister of Defence does not believe there is a conspiracy, sedition or coup in the making, “This is propaganda, behind all of this are private interests and revenge.” Vizcarra lives to fight another day.

When it comes to Latin America, the reader is advised not to rely on the international press without a full understanding of the local context and all the stakeholders. Local correspondents are good, but have to fight hard for every column-inch, which means important details can be lost. We can fill the gap they leave behind.

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