(photo credit: REUTERS)
Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said he asked US President Donald Trump in a phone call on Sunday to consider deporting the Andean country's fugitive ex-leader Alejandro Toledo, and thanked Israel for agreeing to deny him entry. He went on to address the Peruvian nation, speaking out generally against corruption, but didn't get into specifics of extraditing 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.
"We Peruvians have played witness to very regrettable situations and accusations of cases of corruption, including serious accusations against an ex-president of the republic. These result in an immense level of distrust in out system of government. This crisis of distrust started in Brazil but now has spread throughout all countries Latin America. The case of Odebrecht is surely the largest, but probably not the only one. That's why we have to act in an unceasing way.
Peru seeks arrest of ex president Alejandro Toledo in mega graft inquiry (credit: REUTERS)
In relation to the case of the ex-president, Alejandro Toledo, we have taken all the actions the law permits us on the national level, as well as in international jurisdictions like the United States to bring about his return so he speaks on the situation before the judicial system. These measures will allow us to confront with new tools the corrupt parties, and corruption."
The White House did not mention Toledo in a read-out of the conversation and 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 and pro-democracy crusader 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 US Department of Justice has declined to comment.
The dispute threatens to strain tensions between the United States and Peru, a traditional US ally in South America and one of the world's biggest producers of cocaine.
Kuczynski said he also sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to thank him for agreeing to prevent Toledo from entering Israel, which unlike the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Peru.
Israel, where Toledo's wife has citizenship, said earlier on Sunday that Toledo would only be allowed into Israel when he "settles his matters" in Peru after Lima warned that he had booked a Saturday night flight from San Francisco to Tel Aviv.
Toledo did not board the flight.
Kuczynski, 78, spent years working on Wall Street and once held US 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 US election.
Kuczynski later congratulated Trump on his surprise victory but has also criticized the US leader's proposal to build a wall along the US 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.
Trump told Kuczynski he was concerned about developments in Venezuela, including the country's "humanitarian situation," the White House said, echoing similar worries voiced by Kuczynski in the past.