March 8, 2018 / 3:33 PM / 9 months ago

Opposition lawmakers in Peru make new push to oust president

LIMA (Reuters) - Opposition lawmakers in Peru launched another bid on Thursday to force President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski from office over accusations he lied about ties to a Brazilian construction conglomerate at the centre of a far-reaching graft probe.

FILE PHOTO: Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Government Palace in Lima, Peru, February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo/File Photo

A vote on whether to impeach and oust Kuczynski will likely be held after an investigative congressional committee questions the president March 16, said Cesar Villanueva, a lawmaker who presented the motion in a televised news conference.

Kuczynski has denied wrongdoing. A similar impeachment bid in December failed to pass by eight votes, but it shook local markets and slowed growth in one of Latin America’s most stable economies.

The resurgence of political uncertainty has weighed on the sol currency, which slipped 0.15 percent against the dollar on Thursday.

“There’s no valid argument to proceed to impeachment. None,” Kuczynski said on Twitter. “A second attempt...destroys the country and will cost us all.”

Kuczynski averted impeachment in December thanks to loyalists to former rightwing autocrat Alberto Fujimori, whom he released from prison with a pardon days later.

A 10-strong leftist party that opposed impeachment in December is backing the new motion, after its leaders deemed Kuczynski a traitor for pardoning Fujimori.

But the new impeachment motion might receive fewer votes from the biggest opposition party, Popular Force, led by Fujimori’s eldest daughter, Keiko. While Keiko favours impeaching Kuczynski, her younger brother Kenji is opposed and has sparked a series of defections.

The new impeachment motion accuses Kuczynski of repeatedly covering up his connections to Odebrecht [ODBES.UL], a Brazilian construction conglomerate under investigation in Peru since admitting in late 2016 to bribing officials in a dozen countries, including Peru.

Kuczynski has denied anything improper about payments his consulting company received from Odebrecht, some of which were made while he was minister in a government that awarded Odebrecht lucrative contracts more than a decade ago.

Eighty-seven votes in the 130-member single-chamber Congress would be needed to remove Kuczynski from office.

Some 52 percent of Peruvians want Kuczynski to be impeached, while 44 percent want him to remain president, according to a poll by Datum Peru published this week.

Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker, narrowly beat Keiko in a 2016 runoff election. His term has been marked by slowing economic growth and poor relations with Congress.

If Kuczynski were removed from office, Vice President Martin Vizcarra would be charged with replacing him.

Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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