Peruvian President Pedro Kuczynski has insisted he is "an honest man" who "never received a bribe" as Congress debates impeaching him for "moral incapacity" in the sprawling Odebrecht corruption scandal which has engulfed numerous elected officials in Latin America.
The Congressional Commission investigating the Odebrecht construction giant revealed the premier had received payments from the firm when he was a state minister. The payments were made to Westfield Capital Ltd, a company owned by Kuczynski.
Before going to Congress, Kuczynski – who denies any wrongdoing – warned: "The Constitution and democracy are under attack. We face a coup disguised as legal interpretation, but our opposition's intentions are unmasked for their rushed and abusive behaviour."
In his defense, Kuczynski claimed that when he became a minister he decided to "establish a wall" between his public functions and Westfield and, for that reason, he did not know about the company's contracts.
He also pointed out that Odebrecht's payment to Westfield contitutes a minor income and claimed that both Sepúlveda, chilean businessman and Westfield executive, and Odebrecht have denied that Kuczynski had anything to with the contract.
During his defense, Kuczynski told Congress: "Don't allow them to confuse you," warning legislators that "democracy is at stake" and "people don't forget nor do they forgive."
Kuczynski's lawyer Alberto Borea then addressed Congress to further the president's defense, stating that "due process was violated" in the impeachment attempt: "First you have to determine if such an act happened."
The defense repeatedly called on opposition legislators to respect due process and halt the impeachment proceedings until guilt has been established: "If, after the investigations, you determine he is guilty, crucify him, but don't crucify him before."
Congress expects to debate for four and a half hours before reaching a decision.
Kuczynski runs the risk of becoming the first ousted president in the Odebrecht corruption scheme, which would make him the highest-ranking public official to be toppled in the scandal so far.
The Brazilian construction company has already admitted paying millions of dollars in bribes to secure important public-works contracts across Latin America.