Peru VP Quits Corruption Committee Amid Graft Probe

Peruvian Vice President Omar Chehade, who’s facing allegations of using his influence to help companies, stepped down from a congressional committee that’s due to investigate corruption in the previous government.

Chehade, a first-term congressman, said yesterday in a letter to President of Congress Daniel Abugattas that his “irrevocable” resignation from the committee was for “strictly personal reasons.”

The Attorney General’s office is investigating allegations that Chehade, one of President Ollanta Humala’s two vice presidents, sought to use his influence to help an agricultural company gain control of a sugar plantation. Chehade is also alleged to have tried to persuade the previous government to award a contract to a construction company while he was vice-president elect. He’s denied both allegations.

“Chehade’s fate has already been sealed. He has to resign,” said Carlos Basombrio, a political analyst and former deputy interior minister, in a telephone interview from Lima. “The government’s popularity is at stake.”

Humala, a former army officer whose pledges to root out corruption in Peru’s political and judicial system were at the heart of his presidential election campaign, said Oct. 20 he supports the public prosecutor’s probe and will wait for the outcome before taking any action. Humala took office July 28.

Humala’s Defense

Chehade, a 41-year-old lawyer, led the country’s extradition unit when the government brought former president Alberto Fujimori from Chile to face human rights charges.

He successfully defended Humala during a trial for the alleged torture and killing of Marxist rebels while heading a counter-insurgent army base in 1992. Humala was acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2009. Chehade also represented Humala when he was accused of aiding an army uprising led by his brother Antauro Humala in 2005. Humala was cleared of the charges.

“Removing Chehade will be a difficult personal decision for Humala, but it will help his standing with the public,” Basombrio said.

Chehade is scheduled Nov. 2 to appear before a congressional ethics committee.

Humala’s approval rating fell to 62 percent in an Oct. 12-14 poll by researcher Ipsos Apoyo, from 65 percent a month earlier. The company questioned 1,200 people and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

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