LIMA, Peru -- Peruvian lawmakers debated Thursday whether to accept President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's resignation offer, decrying him as one more in a long line of corrupt leaders who have deteriorated faith in the nation's leaders.
The heated discussion was expected to continue far into the night, though a vote was not expected until today. If legislators vote to accept the resignation, they are scheduled to swear in Vice President Martin Vizcarra as Kuczynski's replacement.
Rather than accept Kuczynski's resignation, legislators could vote to impeach him over the allegations of wrongdoing related to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
"The country is outraged," legislator Marco Arana said as debate opened. "Our democracy has been hurt by five corrupt presidents. We don't want one more."
Most lawmakers appeared ready to accept the president's resignation and proceed swiftly with the constitutionally mandated transfer of power, though a handful were pressing for a more forceful impeachment.
The legislators pushing for impeachment lambasted Kuczynski's resignation letter, in which he cast himself as a victim of a crude push to force him out, as one more example of his failure to accept responsibility for any misconduct.
"This is a letter of impunity," lawmaker Maria Elena Foronda said.
Kuczynski's downfall caps four months of turmoil after revelations that his private consulting firm accepted $782,000 in payments more than a decade ago from Odebrecht, which was involved in Latin America's biggest corruption scandal. He was a government minister during part of that time.
Kuczynski has denied any misdeed, saying he had no involvement in the Florida-based firm when the payments were made. But he agreed to step down Wednesday, saying he hoped the move would provide Peru more stability.
Two former Peruvian presidents stand accused of accepting bribes from Odebrecht, and a third is under investigation. Another former president, Alberto Fujimori, was recently pardoned by Kuczynski from a 25-year jail sentence for human-rights abuses committed during his decadelong rule. The pardon came days after Kuczynski narrowly dodged a previous impeachment attempt and sparked protests around the nation.
If congress approves Kuczynski's resignation, things could quickly get grim for the former Wall Street investor. A Peruvian judge said Thursday that he will consider a request to bar him from leaving the country if the resignation proceeds. At that point, Kuczynski would lose his presidential immunity and become vulnerable to prosecution.
Opinion polls say a majority of Peruvians are fed up not just with Kuczynski but all of congress.
At a gathering of several thousand protesters in Lima late Thursday, demonstrators chanted "Throw them all out!" and demanded new elections.
A Section on 03/23/2018
Print Headline: Peru lawmakers debate president's fate