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News > Latin America

Peru's President, Congress Face Off Over Corruption Reforms

  • Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra speaks after being sworn in as Peru's president at the congress building in Lima, Peru March 23, 2018.

    Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra speaks after being sworn in as Peru's president at the congress building in Lima, Peru March 23, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 September 2018

Peru's president Martin Vizcarra says he'll dissolve Congress if they don't approve his corruption reforms. Legislators have till Oct. 4 to act on the months-old bills. 

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra met with spokespeople from each congressional party, deciding that legislators will have until Oct. 4 to approve four constitutional and judicial reform bills proposed by the president.

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"The people already have no confidence in Congress," Peruvian Prime Minister Cesar Villanueva told the press on Monday.

He added that Congress should not be afraid of the question of confidence raised by the head of state, but see it as "a brilliant opportunity for dialogue."

On Sunday the president announced he would call a no-confidence vote to dissolve Congress, daring lawmakers to invoke a constitutional procedure that pits him against the ruling opposition party that controls Peru’s assembly.

Vizcarra asked Congress for a new vote of confidence of his Cabinet to gauge support for four bills he introduced in July meant to curb rampant governmental corruption. A widespread scandal involving judges, lawmakers and prosecutors was revealed in early July that has greatly reduced public trust in the country's public institutions.

The president's reforms call for changes to the National Judicial Council (CNM), the creation of a bicameral Congress, campaign finance reforms and non-reelection of legislators.

Congress already rejected the president’s proposals once. He’s now sending them through a second time, with the threat of terminating the elected officials. “We’ve seen Congress members trying to dilute the projects with absurd modifications that if approved would turn them into useless projects,” the president said on Sunday.

"Almost forty days ago we delivered the four proposals to Congress for constitutional reform expecting to work together to fight this endemic disease,” said the head of state. The president said Congress is dragging its feet on the measures and forgetting about the people it serves.

Under Peru's constitution, if one congressional session dismisses two cabinets formed by a single administration, the president can close Congress and call for fresh elections.

The current Congress already dismissed the cabinet created by former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who resigned in March in connection with receiving Odebrecht kickbacks. Vizcarra replaced Kuczynski after serving as his vice president.

If legislators throw out Vizcarra’s cabinet, he can respond by suspending them and calling for new elections.

“We hope history doesn’t repeat itself after a year when this Congress refused to renew its confidence in the Cabinet... " Vizcarra said in a TV message on Sunday, telling Peruvians he would make good on promises to fight graft at any cost.

Kuczynski said last week that Keiko Fujimori's party, with a majority of congressional seats, is aiming to oust another president. Opposition lawmakers have denied the charge and say Vizcarra's reforms are less urgent than others. Keiko lost the country's last presidential elections in 2016 to Kuczynski and is looking to run again in 2021.

The proposed reforms are supported by most Peruvians. According to a recent Ipsos poll, 79 percent of Peruvians favor including the reforms in a December referendum.

On Tuesday, Congress will begin debating the proposed changes to the CNM.

In July the president of the Second Transitory Criminal Chamber of Peru’s Supreme Court, Cesar Hinostroza, was removed from his charge and investigated for influencing judicial decisions, and embezzlement. The case involves dozens of other high-ranking elected and appointed officials throughout all levels of Peru's government.

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