Facing ouster, Peruvian president seeks support of regional body

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LIMA (Reuters) – As Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski faces a congressional vote this week that could remove him from office over allegations of graft, he has sought to enlist the support of the Organization of American States.

OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro said on Wednesday that following a request from Kuczynski, the bloc was finalising plans to send a team to Peru to “follow the current political situation.”

Kuczynski has strenuously denied the accusations against him and his supporters have called the planned vote on Thursday by the opposition-controlled Congress a hasty coup attempt.

In a letter posted by Almagro on Twitter, Kuczynski pointed to the opposition’s efforts in Congress to “vacate” him from the presidency, as well as its parallel attempt to try to force out the attorney general and three justices of the Constitutional Court. The centre-right president asked the OAS to observe Thursday’s vote.

The opposition’s actions constitute “an assault against democratic order and the legitimate exercise of power,” Kuczynski wrote.

The right-wing opposition party that controls Congress, Popular Force, has denied any anti-democratic actions and has described its efforts to remove Kuczynski, the attorney general and the Constitutional Court justices as well within the bounds of the constitution and part of their battle against corruption.

The accusations against Kuczynski stem from recently disclosed business ties that he once denied having with Odebrecht[ODBES.UL], a Brazilian builder at the centre of Latin America’s biggest corruption scandal.

Kuczynski has said repeatedly there was nothing improper in his ties with Odebrecht. The company has said those ties did not appear to be part of corrupt dealings with politicians that its jailed executives are now detailing to prosecutors.

The Popular Force party emerged from the populist movement started in the 1990s by the country’s former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori, who is now in prison for graft and human rights crimes.

Vice President Martin Vizcarra, who would be immediately authorized to replace Kuczynski if the president is ousted, did not answer questions from reporters on Wednesday about whether he might tender his resignation to clear the way for new elections.

“The only thing I ask from Peruvians is calm, because the most important decisions are made calmly,” Vizcarra said outside his home in Lima after arriving from Ottawa, where he has also been serving as Peru’s ambassador to Canada.

“I profess all of my loyalty… to the president of the Republic,” Vizcarra added, responding to criticism from some that he would betray Kuczynski if he were to replace him.

In a sign of the crisis engulfing the country, Kuczynski’s government cancelled its scheduled auction of a $2 billion copper project, Michiquillay, on Wednesday, two government sources said.

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry)

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