Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra on Monday denied a fresh allegation of corruption made against him almost a month after he escaped impeachment over a previous scandal.
The new accusation, revealed in a Sunday newspaper story based on an anonymous witness working with government prosecutors, is that Vizcarra accepted $280,000 in payoffs from a construction company involved in a public works project before he became president.
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Vizcarra rejected the accusations on Monday and suggested that the complaints were a reprisal after he increased the pace of investigations of the “construction club” of engineering companies with links to government infrastructure projects.
“Every time you try to defeat that virus of corruption, it defends itself by attacking,” Vizcarra told reporters.
“When you hit powerful interests, they don’t stay calm.”
The prosecutor’s office, contacted by Reuters news agency, declined to comment on the allegations published by the newspaper.
Last month, Peru’s Congress voted against removing Vizcarra in an impeachment trial, temporarily quelling political tensions amid a recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has reported 33,305 coronavirus-related deaths so far.
The opposition tried to impeach him over alleged links to irregular government contracts with a little-known singer.
Vizcarra had claimed that the trial was part of a plot against him by the Congress of the Republic of Peru, which was elected in January after the president dissolved the previous parliament in 2019 during a fight with the opposition over his anti-corruption reforms.
The new charge, according to the unnamed witness, is that Vizcarra took the payoff seven years ago when he was a governor.
Opposition lawmakers have said the allegation will trigger a new investigation by the congress.
“A very complicated situation for Vizcarra,” said legislator Ricardo Burga, a spokesman for the centrist Popular Action party. “This returns the country to a state of instability,” he added.