Peru president asks Trump to consider deporting wanted ex-leader

Reuters News
|
Posted: Feb 12, 2017 11:43 AM

By Mitra Taj

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said he asked U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call on Sunday to consider deporting the Andean country's fugitive ex-leader, Alejandro Toledo.

Kuczynski's government believes that Toledo, wanted in connection with a far-reaching graft probe, is in the United States but it said that efforts to capture him there have stalled on legal hurdles.

Kuczynski did not describe Trump's response to his request in a statement or in a televised address he gave about the corruption probe that has ensnared Toledo, who governed Peru from 2001 to 2005 when Kuczynski was finance minister and prime minister.

The White House did not mention Toledo in a read-out of the conversation. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Late on Thursday, a Peruvian judge issued an international arrest warrant for Toledo, who has repeatedly denied allegations by prosecutors that he took $20 million in bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

The downfall of Toledo, once a celebrated anti-graft crusader and pro-democracy activist in Peru, is part of the rapidly-growing fallout of the biggest region-wide corruption scandal in Latin America.

But the United States wants Peru to provide more evidence of probable cause before ordering Toledo's detention in the United States, Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio told Reuters.

The dispute threatens to strain tensions between the United States and Peru, a traditional U.S. ally in South America and one of the world's biggest producers of cocaine.

Both leaders said they discussed their interest in reinforcing U.S.-Peru ties.

Kuczynski, 78, spent years working on Wall Street and once held U.S. citizenship, but his ardent support for free-trade and defense of migrants cuts a stark contrast to Trump's politics.

Shortly after Kuczynski narrowly beat a right-wing populist in Peru's June run-off election last year, he joked that he would cut off ties with the United States if Trump won the U.S. election.

Kuczynski later congratulated Trump on his surprise victory but has also criticized the U.S. leader's proposal to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to curb immigration.

Peru is one of several countries in Latin America that Trump has not mentioned much publicly as he focuses his foreign policy in the region on Mexico and Cuba.

But Trump told Kuczynski he was concerned about developments in Venezuela, including the country's "humanitarian situation," the White House said, echoing similar concerns voiced by Kuczynski in the past.

Venezuela has slid into a deep economic crisis in recent years under President Nicolas Maduro.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Additional reporting by Dave Lawder and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Alan Crosby and Sandra Maler)