Peru's President Martin Vizcarra addresses Congress as lawmakers were set to vote over whether to oust Vizcarra after…
Peru's President Martin Vizcarra addresses Congress as lawmakers were set to vote over whether to oust Vizcarra after impeachment proceedings were launched last week, in Lima, Peru, Sept. 18, 2020.

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra told lawmakers Friday that he had committed no crime and would not be cowed ahead of an impeachment hearing. 

"I am here, with my head high and my conscience clear," Vizcarra said in a speech to Congress, adding that the country should not be "distracted" from real challenges. 

"Let's not generate a new crisis, unnecessarily, that would primarily affect the most vulnerable," he said.  

Peru has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, along with an economic contraction. 

Lawmakers planned to vote later Friday on whether to oust Vizcarra from office. The impeachment proceeding is centered on the president's relationship with a little-known singer, Richard Cisneros, who was given $50,000 in government contracts.  

FILE - Event organizer Richard Cisneros arrives to the National Congress to deliver documents for an ongoing investigation into his hiring at the Ministry of Culture, in Lima, Peru, Sept. 11, 2020.

Most experts expect Vizcarra to survive the vote. Two-thirds of lawmakers would need to approve the vote to remove him from office. 

Congress voted last week to begin impeachment hearings against Vizcarra on the ground of moral incompetence, following allegations he tried to interfere in a probe into government contracts given to Cisneros.  

The move by Congress was fueled by opposition legislators airing secretly recorded audio that appears to show Vizcarra orchestrating a strategy with his aides to answer questions about his meetings with the singer.  

Cisneros claims the $50,000 worth of contracts were legal, according to media reports.  

Earlier this week, the country's top court rejected a request by Vizcarra to stop the impeachment proceedings.  

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