Crime & Justice

Peru’s president appeals for trust amid corruption allegations

Lima, Jun 17 (EFE).- Peruvians can trust his leftist administration to deliver on its promises, President Pedro Castillo said Friday after spending four hours answering questions from prosecutors who have accused him of leading a “criminal organization” embedded in the institutions of the state.

“In spite of the obstacles, lies, and implications, I ask Peruvians for confidence that all of the objectives set out by the people’s government will become reality,” he said on Twitter.

Castillo, a schoolteacher with no previous political experience, stunned Peru last year by qualifying for a presidential runoff against Keiko Fujimori, daughter of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori, and then going on to prevail in the second round of voting.

Proclaiming his “innocence and honor,” the president wrote that he had “nothing to do with irregular or corrupt acts.”

“In the interest of transparency, respect for the Peruvian people and love for my family, I will always present myself and put myself at the disposition of the justice system whenever necessary,” he said, expanding on the terse comments he made to reporters earlier as he returned to his office following the session with prosecutors.

The president’s lawyer, Benji Espinoza, said that his client responded to “all of the questions, all of the concerns.”

Castillo “emphatically denied” being part of any criminal organization, his counsel said.

The Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that Castillo was questioned as part of the “preliminary investigation” of former Transport Minister Juan Silva Villegas – currently a fugitive – and six members of Congress on suspicion of irregularities in the award of a contract for a bridge in the Amazonian province of San Martin.

Prosecutors allege that Castillo promised government contracts to business-owners who donated to his election campaign and that once in office, he selected officials with a mission to make good on those commitments.

The president reported to the AG Office for questioning even after he challenged the subpoena on constitutional grounds.

Under Peru’s constitution, a sitting president may only be investigated on suspicion of treason or if he or she dissolves Congress or seeks to interfere with the electoral process.

At a hearing Wednesday before the court that authorizes criminal probes of public officials, prosecutor Samuel Rojas suggested that the investigation could be reconciled with the constitution because the charter also obliges the state – led by the president – to fight corruption. EFE


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