Public works in Cuzco under scrutiny

21 May 2017

Two different instances of alleged malpractice in public works contracts in Cuzco hit the headlines last week.

The first of these concerns construction of a new urban highway linking the centre of Cuzco city with its eastern suburbs. Former regional governor Jorge Acurio was brought to face trial in Lima over alleged corruption. The public prosecutor claims he received US$1.25 million in bribes from Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company, in return for its winning the contract to build this new road.

The allegations arise from evidence produced in Brazil as part of the Lava Jato investigations. According to this, Acurio had asked for US$3 million for his services. But it appears that he was only paid US$1.25 because in 2013 he was removed from the post of regional governor. He is currently under arrest, pending trial. He is accused of corruption and asset laundering, as well irregularities in the concession to build a hospital in Cuzco.

Acurio’s lawyer also stands accused for his role in setting up an offshore company, Wircel, and a bank account in Andorra through which moneys from Odebrecht would be channelled in ways designed to minimise the risks of detection.

Of more immediate political importance is the case facing the minister of transport and communications, Martín Vizcarra, who was questioned in Congress at length last week for his role in the contract to build a new international airport at Chinchero in Cuzco. The Fujimoristas in Congress say that they will make a decision this week as to whether to censure Vizcarra. If they do, it is likely to create a new crisis in relations between the executive and legislature.

The decision whether or not to censure Vizcarra is likely to hinge on a report by the Comptroller-General’s office as to the legality of the addendums agreed to the original contract with the contractor Kuntur Wasi. Daniel Salaverry, a spokesman for the Fujimorista Fuerza Popular party has called on Vizcarra to jump before he is formally pushed. Observers, including some members of Congress, believe that the reason for censure would be the government’s refusal (so far) to offer a presidential pardon to former president Alberto Fujimori.

On 20 May, Luis Galarreta, the spokesman for Fuerza Popular, announced that his party would also seek to question Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio over his allowing Movadef, a pro-Sendero organisation, to march in Lima on 1 May. He said that an official announcement would be made on 22 May.

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