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Walter Hupiu

This photograph shows a woman in Peru during a protest rally in front of the national prosecutor’s office on January 3, 2019.

Protests erupted after Pedro Chavarry, Peru’s Attorney General, dismissed two lead prosecutors from the Odebrecht bribery probe for allegedly “exceeding their authority.” The Odebrecht scandal, originating in Brazil, has triggered the largest corruption investigation in Latin American history, now involving fourteen countries where the construction giant reportedly engaged in bribery. In Peru alone, the company admitted paying $29 million in bribes to public officials between 2005 and 2014 in exchange for $12.5 billion dollars’ worth of government construction contracts. The scandal has paralyzed Peru’s economy. State projects have been frozen, resulting in a 1.5% loss to Peru’s GDP in 2017 and an expected loss of another full percentage point for 2018.

The two dismissed prosecutors, Rafael Vela and Jose Domingo Perez, were investigating four former Peruvian presidents, as well as opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, on suspicion of corruption and money laundering. The Attorney General’s decision to remove them came on New Years’ Eve, causing many citizens to leave their festivities and protest what they saw as an affront to Peru’s anti-corruption movement. After days of protests and other criticisms, the two prosecutors were reinstated, followed shortly by Chavarry’s resignation.