March 22, 2018 / 11:59 AM / 5 months ago

Venezuela socialists celebrate Peru leader's fall with fireworks

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s ruling socialists exulted over the fall of Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski with a fireworks display following months of enmity between the two governments.

Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is seen announcing his resignation at the Presidential Palace in Lima, Peru March 21, 2018 in this still image from video. PERU GOVERNMENT TV/AMERICA TV/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. PERU OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN PERU. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker who once held U.S. citizenship, has led Latin American criticism of President Nicolas Maduro’s government over rights and democracy, even banning him from attending a summit in Lima next month.

But he resigned on Wednesday in the face of near-certain impeachment over a graft investigation into his connections to Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company that has acknowledged bribing officials across Latin America.

“These fireworks are because someone is going! Goodbye PPK, farewell PPK!” boomed Socialist Party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello to a cheering crowd, using an acronym for Kuczynski’s full name, as fireworks went off overhead during a rally late on Wednesday.

“Here are some fireworks to remind the world - if you mess with Venezuela, you’re out!” he added in the event broadcast on his weekly TV show ‘Bashing with the Sledgehammer.’

Supporters chanted: “He’s gone, he’s gone!”

Despite Kuczynski’s fall, Maduro still faces strong opposition from most major nations around Latin America.

Peru’s new leader - Vice President Martin Vizcarra - may follow the same hard line on Venezuela as his predecessor.

Defying Peru’s ban, Maduro has vowed to be at the mid-April Summit of the Americas, which his biggest international critic - U.S. President Donald Trump - is also due to attend.

“I was looking forward to greeting him (Kuczynski) again. I thought he was going to welcome me, but he won’t be there, so when I arrive, who will receive me in Lima?” he said on state TV, musing: “Such is life.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez also laid into Peru’s outgoing president, calling him, on Twitter, a “self-styled imperialist lapdog” and “evil person” who was heading for the “rubbish bin of history.”

Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, Corina Pons and Vivian Sequera; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker

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