LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra on Monday said that “delusional lies” are at the heart of the political turmoil the Andean copper-producing country is experiencing as the government fights to block impeachment proceedings against him.
Vizcarra, who is due to finish his term in 10 months, said in a televised message that the crisis was triggered by a confidant’s betrayal and a fragmented Congress that was seeking to destabilize the government.
“I must tell Peruvians that what is happening here is the betrayal of someone close to me,” said Vizcarra
“I have to deeply regret and apologize to the country because a person from the presidential office whom I trusted, not from now but from years ago, has created this situation … without any foundation,” he added.
Lawmakers voted last week to impeach Vizcarra, who has no party representation in Congress, due to “moral incapacity” in a case of the alleged irregular hiring of a little-known singer who goes as “Richard Swing.”
The scandal broke after leaked audio recordings were shared in Congress by opposition lawmakers of Vizcarra discussing meetings with the singer. Some lawmakers alleged the recordings showed him trying to downplay his ties to the performer.
Peru’s government filed a lawsuit with the country’s top court earlier on Monday in a bid to hold up impeachment proceedings.
The potential ouster appeared to lose steam over the weekend, however, after several political leaders came out against it, saying it would spark further turmoil with Peru already facing its deepest recession in decades and the coronavirus pandemic.
Luis Huerta, a lawyer for the Ministry of Justice who presented the lawsuit, said the government’s move aimed to “temporarily suspend” the impeachment process while the Constitutional Court looked into the matter.
“The lawsuit alleges that there is an improper use by Congress regarding its power to declare vacancy due to moral incapacity,” he added.
On Saturday, Peru’s prosecutor raided the homes of several people involved in the case, including officials close to Vizcarra and the singer, who was awarded government contracts for motivational talks for $49,500.
The vote to launch impeachment proceedings passed with 67 votes in favor, but an actual ouster would require a higher threshold of 87 votes from the 130 legislators. Vizcarra has been summoned to face lawmakers on Friday.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Adam Jourdan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)