Peru high court rejects request to halt impeachment hearing

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Peru's President Martin Vizcarra attends the start of a house-to-house coronavirus testing drive and food distribution in Villa el Salvador, on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

LIMA – A high Peruvian court rejected a request by President Martín Vizcarra Thursday to halt impeachment proceedings being pushed by opposition lawmakers who contend he tried to cover up ties with a controversial ally.

The Constitutional Tribunal shot down Vizcarra’s demand in a 5-2 vote but also agreed to advance his request for clarification on what is “moral incapacity,” the accusation detractors are using to try and thwart him from office.

Tribunal President Marianella Ledesma said magistrates agreed to let the impeachment proceeding advance because recent events indicate the removal attempt is unlikely to actually result in Vizcarra’s ouster.

“The Tribunal considers that there isn’t a risk,” she told Peru21 television.

Lawmakers who initiated the impeachment process last week have struggled to garner support and analysts believe they are unlikely to get enough votes to remove Vizcarra. The impeachment would come at a tumultuous time for Peru, one of the countries with the highest per capita COVID-19 mortality rates in the world.

Nonetheless, the impeachment hearing Friday in Congress will continue as planned.

The political crisis erupted last week when opposition legislators aired several covertly recorded audios that appear to show Vizcarra coordinating a defense strategy to answer questions about an obscure musician’s visits to see him.

The lawmakers contend the audios show that Vizcarra was trying to obstruct an investigation into nearly $50,000 in contracts given to singer Richard Cisneros.

Vizcarra has not been charged and vehemently denies the accusations.

Analysts warn that the country’s democracy could be weakened if the impeachment proceeds. The proceedings have been rushed and no probe has yet concluded whether any illegal activity indeed took place.