Peru leader forcing showdown with congress on corruption

Peru leader forcing showdown with congress on corruption

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LIMA, Peru (AP) — President Martin Vizcarra called on legislators Wednesday night to usher through five reforms aimed at quashing Peru's endemic corruption, saying he will use a constitutional provision allowing him to dissolve congress if it rejects the proposal.

In an address to the nation, Vizcarra said lawmakers are acting in their own self-interest to protect positions of power rather than institute reforms that would ensure the nation's rampant corruption is crushed once and for all.

"The majority in parliament once again continues to turn its back to the citizens and cause damage for Peru," he said.

Vizcarra rose to power after Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned the presidency amid corruption allegations last year, and he has made conquering a system where backroom deals and graft often go unpunished his signature drive.

Nearly every former living president in Peru is being investigated in connection with Latin America's largest corruption scandal.

Under a provision of Peru's constitution being invoked by Vizcarra, he would be entitled to dissolve congress if lawmakers reject the proposed reforms, which could come as soon as this week. He has repeatedly clashed with congress, which is dominated by the party of Keiko Fujimori, the opposition leader currently behind bars while being investigated on suspicion of money laundering.

The dramatic move by Vizcarra comes after legislators sacked one of his reform proposals last week.

The five reforms he is looking to push forward include measures that would curtail special privileges and seek to prevent future corruption. One proposal would allow Peru's Supreme Court to withdraw parliamentary immunity. Another would prohibit those who have been convicted in court from running for office.

The nation has been rocked by the Odebrecht corruption scandal, in which the Brazilian construction giant admitted to paying nearly $800 million to high-profile leaders throughout the region in exchange for lucrative public works contracts.

Peru has gone further than any other nation outside Brazil in holding leaders accountable. While much of the public has praised prosecutors, some have also criticized them for being overzealous in arresting leaders before they are officially charged.

Former President Alan Garcia fatally shot himself in the head as officers arrived at his home to arrest him in connection with the Odebrecht probe in April.

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