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Peru's Congress to weigh second impeachment trial for Vizcarra

LIMA, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Peru’s Congress will debate on Monday whether to start a new process to remove President Martín Vizcarra from office over corruption allegations, a month and a half after he survived an impeachment trial.

Lawmakers will weigh moving forward with impeachment proceedings at the request of a group of lawmakers over allegations that Vizcarra accepted bribes of about 2.3 million soles ($637,000) from two companies that won public works tenders when he was the governor of the southern region of Moquegua. Vizcarra has denied the allegations.

To approve the start of a new impeachment process for “moral incapacity,” Congress must gather at least 52 votes among its 130 members. If the process moves forward, Vizcarra would be invited to make his defense before Congress. Lawmakers would then need 87 votes to approve the ouster.

“We are calm. What we must say is that we hope that (the debate) is carried out with moderation and responsibility because actions like that affect the fight against the pandemic and the process of economic reactivation,” Defense Minister Jorge Chávez told reporters on Sunday.

Vizcarra, who does not have his own party representation in the legislature and whose term ends in July, survived an ouster attempt on Sept. 18 amid political tensions and an economic recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Only 32 of Congress’ 130 members voted to remove him. The president, who took office in 2018 and is constitutionally barred from seeking a new term, had charged that the move was a plot by Congress, which was elected in January after the president dissolved the previous parliament last year during a battle with the opposition over his anti-corruption reforms.

The political turbulence in copper giant Peru comes as the country surpassed 900,000 coronavirus cases and more than 34,500 deaths, with one of the highest fatality rates per capita in the world. (Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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