President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru announced his resignation on Wednesday, avoiding a pending impeachment decision after the release of recordings implicating him in a possible vote-buying scheme.
Kuczynski had served less than two years in the office.
A secretly-recorded video was released on Tuesday of Kuczynski speaking with allies who told of their efforts to buy off the president’s political opponents (and have his impeachment blocked) by bribing them with access to Kuczynski, appointment powers, along with enticements over public projects and access to funds.
In the video, a government official, Freddy Aragon, tells Kuczynski “It’s incredible how much money you can get, brother, without moving a finger.”
The impeachment proceedings had already been underway when the video emerged. They were precipitated by allegations that a firm owned by Kuczynski accepted $782,000 from a Brazilian contractor over ten years ago, when the president was then serving as a government minister.
In December, Peru’s congress held an initial vote for the president’s impeachment but failed to reach the number necessary for his removal from office. Once the video emerged, even members from Kuczynski’s own party were calling for his resignation.
President Kuczynski maintains his innocence, saying the videos were edited to show him unfavorably, and insisting that during the contracting scandal he had left his business in the hands of an associate.
Addressing the nation in a televised speech to announce his resignation, Kuczynski told the people of Peru, “This has created enormous damage for the country. For the good of the country, I’m resigning as the president of the republic.”
He continued, “I don’t want to block the path of harmony that the nation so badly needs and which was denied to me. I don’t want the country or my family to continue suffering the uncertainty of recent times.”
A trained economist, Kuczysnki has held previous positions at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The Los Angeles Times reported that he was also at one point a Wall Street banker. He was a US citizen until 2015, when we he gave up the status to pursue his campaign for president in Peru.