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Peru prime minister resigns over leaked audio of him ‘declaring love’ to 25-year-old woman

Alberto Otarola cuts short Canada trip to return to Peru and tender his resignation, but remains defiant

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 06 March 2024 07:59 GMT
Peru's prime minister Alberto Otarola resigns after scandal
Peru's prime minister Alberto Otarola resigns after scandal (AFP via Getty Images)

Peru’s prime minister has resigned over allegations he used his influence to secure government contracts for a 25-year-old woman with whom he had a relationship.

Leaked audio recordings purport to show Alberto Otarola, 57, declaring his love for Yaziré Pinedo in 2021 at a time when he was not a government minister. He has denied any wrongdoing and described them as “edited” clips.

But they have sparked outrage since they were released by Panorama TV over the weekend, amid claims that Mr Otarola used his influence to gain lucrative government contracts for work with the defence ministry.

She was allegedly given two contracts for work in 2023 worth 53,000 sol (£11,000). Mr Otarola was defence minister of Peru until end of 2022, when he was promoted to prime minister.

In recording, a male voice can be heard saying “I love you” and repeatedly asking a woman when she is going to meet him. In another he can be heard saying: "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.”

Peru's prime minister Alberto Otarola (L) during a ceremony with President Dina Boluarte at the Palace of Government in Lima on March 1, 2024 (PRESIDENCIA DEL PERU/AFP via Get)

Ms Pinedo said on Tuesday that the conversation was from 2021, before Mr Otarola became a minister in the department for which she would later work, but acknowledged her “sentimental relationship" with him.

An investigation has been launched to probe the "illegal sponsorship” and corruption allegations against the former prime minister.

Mr Otarola was on an official trip to Canada as the scandal unfolded in Peru and president Dina Boluarte asked him to cut his trip short and return.

In his resignation speech, Mr Otarola said: “Those who have always wanted me out of the government... have not even hesitated to edit an audio with the veiled purpose of tarnishing my image.”

“I understand the seriousness of the political situation, but I reiterate that I have not committed any illegal act. In due course, I will specify where this infamy comes from and what dark interests it is after,” he said in a message on X.

“My principles are greater than the hatred and baseness of the haters,” he added.

With the prime minister’s departure, all 18 cabinet members must now also resign, according to Peruvian law. Ms Boluarte has the choice to reinstate each cabinet member or swap them out for a new minister.

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