Lima, Mar 24 (AFP) Martin Vizcarra was sworn in as Peru’s new president today, catapulted to the post when Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned to avoid impeachment.

Vizcarra, who was both vice president as well as his country’s ambassador to Canada, took the oath of office and donned the red-and-white presidential sash before the Peruvian Congress.

The ceremony came shortly after lawmakers voted to accept the resignation of his former boss Kuczynski, rather than push ahead with impeaching him over corruption allegations.

“We will stand firm in the fight against corruption. Transparency will be a pillar of our administration,” Vizcarra, a former cabinet minister known for his meticulous management and unflashy style, said in his first address as president.

“Better times will come.”

Just a day before, the engineer and technocrat was far removed from the political hornet’s nest that brought down Kuczynski, leading the relatively placid life as the head of the Peruvian mission in Ottawa.

He flew home last night, on his 55th birthday, and now takes over the remainder of Kuczynski’s term, until 2021 — though early elections are still a possibility.

Kuczynski, 79, had a strikingly short tenure as president: the former Wall Street banker was elected by a razor-thin margin in June 2016, and took office the following month.

But he lacked a majority in Congress, and was almost immediately embroiled in a messy conflict with the main opposition party, Popular Force, led by Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of disgraced ex-president Alberto Fujimori.

When reports emerged linking Kuczynski to Brazil’s scandal-plagued construction giant Odebrecht — accused of paying massive bribes to politicians around Latin America for juicy public works contracts — Popular Force mounted a relentless push to remove the president from office.

Odebrecht revealed in December that it had paid nearly USD 5 million to consulting companies linked to Kuczynski when he was finance minister.

The former president survived a first impeachment vote that month. Three days later, he granted a pardon on medical grounds to former president Fujimori, who had been in jail for corruption and human rights violations.

That sparked speculation of a back-room deal with an opposition faction led by Keiko Fujimori’s brother and sometime rival Kenji.

When video tapes emerged of Kenji, who has now split from his sister’s party, apparently offering bribes to a fellow lawmaker to vote against the December impeachment, the political damage to Kuczynski proved to be too much.

Facing a new impeachment vote, he announced his resignation on Wednesday, proclaiming his innocence but saying it was for the good of the country. (AFP) CK 03240150

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.