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Zoraida Avalos who took over as Peru's top prosecutor declared the Public Prosecutor's Office in a state of emergency to restore public confidence.
Peru’s newly-installed leader of the Public Ministry, Zoraida Avalos, declared a state of emergency over the national office she is temporarily presiding over to restore confidence in the institution mired in several corruption scandals.
"I declare the Public Prosecutor's Office in emergency. I repeat, declare the Public Prosecutor's Office in a state of emergency in order to recover the trust of the citizens in our institution," said Avalos at a Tuesday press conference in Lima.
Also on Tuesday, former Attorney General Pedro Chavarry stepped aside and Avalos, a former member of the Board of Supreme Prosecutors, replaced Chavarry who will now head the Supreme Civil Prosecutor's Office. His final destination is up to the newly created National Board of Justice or Congress, Avalos told reporters.
"I assume this challenge with courage," said Avalos who vowed to "fight against corruption without rest." The official did not specify how long the state of emergency will last.
The public, President Martin Vizcarra, and Avalos herself along with other Board members had insisted over the past week that Chavarry step down from his post over accusations that he was obstructing the major investigation of Odebrecht construction company for allegedly providing up to US$30 million in kickbacks to high-level elected officials in Peru between 2005 and 2015.
On Dec. 26 special prosecutors Jose Domingo Perez and Rafael Vela, in charge of the Odebrecht corruption case, formally accused Attorney General Pedro Chavarry of "obstructing collaboration" in their investigation of the Brazilian company's operations in Peru. Chavarry retaliated by dismissing Perez and Vela from their posts, prompting public outrage.
Public and government pressure convinced the top official to reinstate the public lawyers on Jan. 3.
Since August, Perez, Vela and a team of public prosecutors have been investigating Peruvian elected officials, including presidents Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), Alan Garcia (1985-1990, 2006-2011) and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-2018) for taking in an estimated US$30 million in illicit kickbacks from Odebrecht in exchange for construction contracts.
Perez himself is in charge of investigating Fuerza Popular legislator Keiko Fujimori for receiving at least US$1.2 million from Odebrecht for her 2011 presidential campaign. After a Jan. 5 raid of Chavarry's offices, Perez says he has found evidence that connects Chavarry to Keiko and Fuerza Popular.
Chavarry is also thought to be connected to the White Collars of Callao mafia, an organized ring of Peruvian judicial officials at all levels of the government linked to influence-peddling, bribery, and money laundering.
Last Wednesday President Vizcarra presented a bill to declare a state of emergency over the top public prosecutor’s office.
Avalos stressed that the highest public prosecutor’s office "supports the special prosecutor's offices" and its investigations of Odebrecht and the White Collars of Callao mafia.