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Peru’s Congress votes to mull impeaching president

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Peruvian Congress in Lima is seen on December 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Peru's Congress voted overwhelmingly on Friday to consider impeaching President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski next week over allegations he received bribes from Brazilian contractor Odebrecht.

Ninety three of the 118 legislators present supported the proposal to debate impeachment on December 21.

"This decision will be communicated to the president to exercise his right to defense (during the next session) and assist with a lawyer if required," said Luis Galarreta, the head of Peru's single-chamber Congress.

Dismissal of Kuczynski would require support from 87 of the chamber's 130 members.

The rightwing Popular Force Party, which controls the legislature, had already warned it would begin impeachment proceedings if the president did not resign by next Thursday.

But Kuczynski has brushed off the ultimatum.

"I am not going to abdicate my honor, my values or my responsibilities as president," Kuczynski said in a televised speech to the nation late on Thursday, backed by his ministers.

This handout picture shows Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski attending a ceremony for the closing of the academic year at the School of Army Officers in Lima, on December 14, 2017. (Via AFP)

On Wednesday, Odebrecht said it had paid Kuczynski 5 million dollars (4.25 million euros) in consulting fees between 2004 and 2013.

For part of that period, Kuczynski was economy minister and head of cabinet for then-president Alejandro Toledo, whom Odebrecht paid 20 million dollars in kickbacks to win a contract managing a highway project, the company said.

Kuczynski denies any wrongdoing.

He is the third Peruvian president to become embroiled in the Odebrecht affair.

Former president Ollanta Humala is in preventive detention, accused of receiving 3 million dollars from Odebrecht to fund his political campaigns, while Toledo faces an order for his extradition from the United States.

The Odebrecht scandal has ensnared politicians in several other countries including Ecuador, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela.

Under investigation by the US Justice Department, Odebrecht agreed in December 2016 to pay a record 3.5-billion-dollar fine after admitting to paying 788 million dollars in bribes across 12 countries to secure contracts.

(Source: AFP)

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