Peruvian TV airs audio of prime minister discussing airport contract

Peru's Prime Minister Fernando Zavala talks to Reuters during an interview at the government palace in Lima

LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian television network ATV broadcast an audio recording on Thursday in which Prime Minister Fernando Zavala is heard in a private meeting with the country’s comptroller discussing a now-cancelled airport contract.

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the recording, and Zavala and Vice President Martin Vizcarra, who is also heard in the recording, did not respond to requests for comment.

In an interview with TV channel Canal N, Vizcarra did not dispute the recording and said the remarks in it were not improper because they reflected the government’s public position on the $525 million Chinchero airport contract. He said the meeting occurred on May 2.

Zavala has been doubling as the country’s finance minister since last week when the opposition-controlled Congress ousted previous Finance Minister Alfredo Thorne with a vote of no-confidence over accusations that he tried to pressure the comptroller to approve a controversial contract.

The latest tape could renew tension between Zavala and Congress.

Opposition lawmaker Hector Becerril of the right-wing party Popular Force tweeted on Thursday, “After listening to the new audio, it’s imperative for Prime Minister Zavala to be summoned to Congress. He owes explanations to the country.”

On Thursday in an interview on Canal N, opposition lawmaker Marco Arana of the leftist group Broad Front called for Zavala to be summoned to Congress to answer questions about the audio recording.

Zavala said in February that he had recused himself from discussions about Chinchero because his sister worked at Andino Investment Holding, part of the Kuntur Wasi consortium that was awarded the Chinchero contract in the previous government. Zavala’s sister later resigned from Andino.

In the recording broadcast on ATV, Zavala is heard in a meeting with comptroller Edgar Alarcon speaking about the importance of moving forward with Chinchero and other public work projects.

(Reporting By Marco Aquino and Mitra Taj)