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Sat Jun 29, 2019, 12:23 AM

Peru's House of Cards: Odebrecht scandal has engulfed the country's political class

June 27, 2019 8.33am EDT

Pervasive and endemic corruption is a way of life in Peru – what the late Peruvian scholar Alfonso Quiroz described as an enduring “history of unbound graft”. So the fact that Peru is in eye of the storm of the biggest corruption scandal in modern Latin American history is hardly surprising. But, even in a region prone to theatrical political drama, the scandal has ensnared and toppled those in the highest political offices in Peru.

A Netflix-worthy tale of political intrigue has unfolded: one president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-18) resigned and is currently under house arrest. His predecessor, Ollanta Humala (2011-16) and his wife Nadine Heredia remain in preventive detention.

Meanwhile, former president Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) – a Stanford-educated economist and the first elected indigenous president of Latin America – is in California fighting extradition to Peru after an arrest warrant was issued in 2017 on charges of bribery. And, shockingly, on April 17 2019, two-time president Alan García (1985-1990 and 2006-2011) and leader of the oldest political party in Latin America, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA), refused to surrender to police and committed suicide.

The downfall of these leaders is symptomatic of the demise of an entire political class. In fact, of all the countries affected by the so-called Odebrecht scandal, Peru is perhaps the only country where the wheels of justice are truly turning – in this case, literally, into indictments of a once untouchable sphere of people. But why is the judicial system working so well in Peru of all places?


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