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Peru has a new president, Martin Vizcarra, after his predecessor was ousted in a vote-buying scandal

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra waves after being sworn into office in Lima, Peru, on Friday. His predecessor, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, resigned over corruption allegations.
(Martin Mejia / Associated Press)

Martin Vizcarra was sworn in as Peru’s new president on Friday, replacing Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who resigned this week amid a vote-buying scandal.

Vizcarra, 55, had been serving both as vice president and Peru’s ambassador to Canada when Kuczynski announced his resignation Wednesday. Congress accepted his departure in a vote Thursday, clearing the way for Vizcarra to take the oath.

Kuczynski quit after opposition lawmakers released video and audio recordings that allegedly implicated him in a scheme last year to promise public works projects to opposing members of Congress in exchange for their support in impeachment proceedings.

The resignation ended, at least for the time being, the political feuding between Kuczynski and opposition leader Keiko Fujimori that had paralyzed the country and divided Peruvians.

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Kuczynski narrowly defeated Fujimori in the 2016 presidential race and overcame an impeachment vote in December that she orchestrated. He was charged with “moral incapacity” after it was revealed that a firm he co-owned accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting contracts from a disgraced Brazilian construction firm, Odebrecht, while he worked in Cabinet jobs under President Alejandro Toledo from 2001 to 2006.

“We will work toward recovering [public] confidence in Peruvian institutions,” Vizcarra said after the swearing-in ceremony at the National Congress building. “Peru comes first, and we must leave behind political squabbles.”

Vizcarra was formerly regional president of Moquegua in southern Peru, where he earned a reputation for good government that persuaded Kuczynski to name him as his vice president. He also held the post of transport and communication minister.

Vizcarra survived his own impeachment drama after Fujimori brought a vote to Congress last year demanding his ouster for allegedly having promoted public works projects at the Cuzco airport that benefited a small group of business executives. But Vizcarra was cleared by prosecutors of any wrongdoing.

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According to a poll released this week by the GFK firm, nearly half of Peruvians want new a presidential election to be held. But the constitution specifies that Vizcarra serve out the three remaining years of Kuczynski’s term, which ends in 2021.

“The public perceives [Vizcarra] as an honest and hard-working person, but the problem is that it doesn’t believe Congress will allow him to work,” said political analyst Luis Benavente in comments to local reporters.

Vizcarra takes over a government weakened by the paralysis of the Kuczynski administration and the majority control of Congress by Fujimori’s opposition Popular Force coalition. But the daughter of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori also faces investigations that implicate her in the Odebrecht scandal. Her campaign allegedly received illegal contributions from the Brazilian firm in 2011.

Economist and political analyst Juan Mendieta said that Vizcarra’s top priority should be achieving consensus with the opposition. That would allow him to respond to public demands to crack down on corruption, Mendieta said.

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“If the new government can arrive at agreements with [the Popular Force], it’s possible that private investment will increase and reactivate the economy,” he said.

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Leon is a special correspondent. Special correspondent Chris Kraul in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


UPDATES:

2:00 p.m.: This article has been updated throughout with staff reporting, quotes and additional background.

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This article was originally published at 12:05 p.m.


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