South America

Pope calls for 'transparency' to combat corruption in Peru


Pope Francis has called corruption in Peru a social 'virus' while on a visit to the South American nation.

Pope Francis has made a forceful call to combat corruption in Peru, calling it a social "virus" a month after the Andean nation's president pardoned a former autocratic leader who had been jailed for graft and human rights abuses.

As Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski sat beside him, the pope said that tackling corruption required "a greater culture of transparency among public entities, the private sector and civil society - and I don't exclude Church communities", in some of his most direct words on the theme yet.

While the Argentine pontiff, Latin America's first pope, has condemned corruption on past trips, it is rare for him to mention it alongside a leader, particularly one who has been tainted by scandal like Kuczynski.

People wait to see Pope Francis  and  Peruvian President, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski arrive for an event at Government Palace in Lima, Peru, 19 January 2018. The Pope is in Peru for a three days visit.  EPA/LUCA ZENNARO
The faithful line the streets of Peru's capital Lima to get a glimpse of Pope Francis.

"Everything being done to combat this social scourge deserves our utmost attention and help ... This is a battle that involves all of us," the head of the Roman Catholic Church said in a speech outside the presidential palace in downtown Lima.

Latin American countries from Brazil to Argentina and Mexico have been gripped by corruption scandals involving billions of dollars of graft and high-level politicians and executives, many tied to Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

In Peru, a former president has been detained, while Kuczynski was nearly impeached in December for not revealing that a company he used to run did business with Odebrecht. Kuczynski denies wrongdoing.

Days after surviving an impeachment vote in Congress, Kuczynski pardoned former president Alberto Fujimori less than halfway through his 25-year sentence, in what was widely seen as a political deal to allow Kuczynski to stay in office.

Kuczynski, 79, cited medical reasons for granting Fujimori the pardon and has said it was fundamentally about forgiveness. He denies it was part of a backroom deal.

Francis did not address the pardon directly. Nor has he granted requests to meet with families of victims of death squads Fujimori unleashed to combat a Maoist-inspired insurgency during his 1990-2000 rule.

Kuczynski welcomed Francis, saying Peru was healing the wounds of 30 years ago and the pope's visit had given the country a push

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