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Peru plans to ‘legitimise’ judicial reforms

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Outraged Peruvians take part in a march against corruption in Lima on July 27, 2018 after audio recordings sparked a corruption scandal. AFP

LIMA (AFP) – Peru will hold a referendum to “legitimise” judicial reforms, including the creation of an anti-corruption office and sanctions on corrupt judges and lawyers, following reports of judges offering lenient sentences for a price, President Martin Vizcarra said Saturday.

“The system for administering justice has collapsed,” Mr Vizcarra said in remarks delivered on Peru’s Independence Day. “We will open a referendum process for judicial reform.”

Mr Vizcarra, an engineer by training, took office four months ago after his center-right predecessor, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, resigned amid a swirl of corruption allegations.

The president said Peruvians would also vote on constitutional changes to set term limits for legislators, re-establish a bicameral Congress for the first time since 1993 and increase transparency in court decisions.

“With these measures we will significantly reduce corruption in the administration of justice,” Mr Vizcarra said. “Enough with the pardons in exchange for money.”

Analysts said there was some doubt Mr Vizcarra would be able to carry out the full slate of ambitious reforms, since he lacks a strong base of support in Congress, which is dominated by the far-right opposition party of Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori.

The nation’s judiciary has been mired in scandal since investigative website IDL-Reporteros early this month released more than 20 tapes on which several judges appear to discuss arranging lenient treatment for defendants in exchange for cash or favors.

The scandal has led to the resignation of the president of the Supreme Court, Duberli Rodriguez, of Justice Minister Salvador Heresi and of Orlando Velasquez, head of the National Council of Magistrates, which appoints judges and prosecutors.

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