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News > Peru

Peru President Requests State of Emergency as Odebrecht Prosecutors Dismissed

  •  Peru's President Martin Vizcarra speaks to media at the government palace in Lima, Peru Oct. 29, 2018.

    Peru's President Martin Vizcarra speaks to media at the government palace in Lima, Peru Oct. 29, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 January 2019

Peru's President Martin Vizcarra calls for state of emergency over attorney general's office for dismissing lawyers who investigate Odebrecht in the country.

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra says he’s presenting a bill that will declare a state of emergency over the attorney general’s office after the nation’s top prosecutor, Pedro Chavarry dismissed two public lawyers who accused him of obstructing justice in the far-reaching Odebrecht corruption investigation.

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"Using my powers established in Article 107 of the Constitution, my cabinet has approved the bill requesting that the Attorney General’s office be declared under a state of emergency," Vizcarra said in a press conference in Lima. He’ll present the bill himself to the national assembly on Wednesday.

Major demonstrations took place throughout Peru on Jan. 1 including outside the presidential palace in Lima in support of the two fired prosecutors, Jose Domingo Perez and Rafael Vela, who spoke to reporters late Tuesday night.

Demonstrators applauded Perez and Vela as they went into a municipal building in Lima’s Plaza Mayor where they told reporters that Chavarry’s move was “illegal” and that they will appeal the measure on Wednesday to the nation’s Prosecutors Board. Clashes took place between a few protesters and police in the public square.

On Dec. 26 provincial-level public prosecutors Jose Domingo Perez and Rafael Vela in charge of the Odebrecht corruption case in Peru formally accused Attorney General Pedro Chavarry of "obstructing effective collaboration" between themselves, the Brazilian construction corporation and Brazilian public prosecutors.

Since August, Perez, Vela and a small team of public lawyers have been investigating the company for allegedly paying millions in kickbacks to former and current Peruvian elected officials, including presidents Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), Alan Garcia (1985-1990, 2006-2011) and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-2018) over the past 20 years in return for construction contracts.

Perez himself is in charge of investigating current Fuerza Popular legislator Keiko Fujimori for receiving at least US$1.2 million from Odebrecht for her 2011 presidential campaign. Perez succeeded in having Fujimori put in 36 months of preventive detention, along with her husband and several Keiko advisors in November 2018 while investigations were underway.

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Last week Perez and Vela had requested that Chavarry’s own national attorney general office investigate the top anti-corruption official for allegedly trying to derail the monumental investigation that Vizcarra has said he “fully supports” and would “shake up” Peru’s corruption political culture for the better.

"(Chavarry) is damaging Peru’s interests causing the indignation of citizens and myself. We want to make examples of those who have badly played the country," denounced the head of state.

If the Fuerza Popular-packed assembly denies Vizcarra the state of emergency, it will be considered censoring his cabinet, which then enables the president to call for fresh legislative elections. Fujimori's Fuerza Popular has shielded Chavarry from four investigations against him in the past. Following results of the most recent referendum, current lawmakers would not be able to run for re-election, a new policy that is meant to fight against political corruption. 

In mid-December Perez and Vela announced that they and Brazilian prosecutors along with Odebrecht executives reached a joint deal that would allow Brazil’s lawyers to interrogate 23 former Peruvian politicians, government officials and Odebrecht exec in the country in connection to over 50 illicit Odebrecht contracts and subsequent kickbacks that took place between the late 1990s and 2018.

Testimonies were set to be taken between Jan. 14 and 23 in Curitiba, Brazil. It’s unclear yet if the special hearings will take place now that the lead prosecutors have been discharged.

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