LIMA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The ethics committee in Peru’s Congress voted on Tuesday to suspend Vice President Omar Chehade from the legislature over corruption allegations, racheting up pressure on him to resign from both posts.
Chehade, who holds a seat in Congress and is one of Peru’s two vice presidents, has defiantly refused calls by President Ollanta Humala to quit and end the first scandal of his young presidency.
Chehade claims he is innocent of allegations that he asked a police general to help his brother evict workers from a cooperative sugar plantation to help a company that wants to take it over.
The ethics panel unanimously voted to suspend Chehade from Congress for 120 days and the entire legislature will likely vote on the motion next week.
Chehade has said he was taking leaves of absence from some duties but will hold onto his jobs while he defends himself in investigations by the attorney general and three congressional committees over illegal lobbying.
Humala, a leftist former military officer, distanced himself on Sunday from Chehade, saying “We don’t have any relationship with him at this time.”
But Humala effectively cannot fire Chehade and his power to end the scandal has been limited by the constitution, which says only Congress can remove a vice president from office in an impeachment proceeding.
The approval rating for Humala, who campaigned on promises to fight corruption, was 62 percent in the leading Ipsos poll before the scandal emerged — making him the most popular Peruvian leader in decades. A new poll from Ipsos is due out in the coming days. (Reporting by Dante Alva; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)