Peruvian president’s top aide mired in influence peddling scandal

Peruvian president’s top aide mired in influence peddling scandal
Peruvian president’s top aide mired in influence peddling scandal

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Peru's Prime Minister Alberto Otarola waves to journalists upon his arrival at Itamaraty palace in Brasilia on May 30, 2023. — AFP pic

LIMA, March 6 — Peru’s powerful prime minister is mired in a scandal that could cost him his job over influence-peddling to help a young woman he allegedly addressed tenderly in recordings released by news media.

The minister, Alberto Otarola, is a seasoned politician and lawyer who acts as chief of staff to President Dina Boluarte, who ordered him home from an official trip to Canada after the scandal erupted last weekend.

Otarola, 57, is married and has five children. He is scheduled to return to Peru Tuesday.

Over the weekend the television program Panorama released what it said were recordings of Otarola speaking with a woman named Yazire Pinedo, 25, who landed two contracts this year worth a total of US$14,000 to do archive and administrative work for the government.

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In one of the recordings a man alleged to be the prime minister says to her: “Tell me, then, my love, so we can talk. You know these things are annoying, they are a pain, but you also know that I love you,” referring to the redtape involved in bidding for a government gig.

Otarola has denied any violation of Peruvian labour laws or other wrongdoing.

“I understand the gravity of the political circumstances but I repeat that I did not do anything illegal,” he said Monday on X, the former Twitter.

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The president’s office said in a statement it would hear Otarola out before deciding what to do with him.

Pinedo said yesterday that the leaked conversations with Otarola are from 2021, before he was a cabinet minister.

But she acknowledged that at that time she had had a brief “perhaps sentimental relationship” with the man who is now prime minister.

Opposition parties on both the right and left are demanding that Otarola resign.

Prosecutors said they will probe him on suspicion of conflict of interest and “illegal sponsorship.” — AFP

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