Peru: Amazon highway at issue in Toledo scandal

Peru's prosecutor general Pablo Sánchez announced Feb. 7 that he is seeking the arrest of former president Alejandro Toledo on charges of laundering assets and influence trafficking. Prosecutors opened a formal investigation this week into allegations that Toledo took $20 million in bribes from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, with investigators raiding his home in Lima on Feb 4 and carting off boxes full of documents. Sánchez is now asking a judge to approve 10 months of "preventative detention" for Toledo while the case is under investigation. Toledo is currently believed to be in Paris, where he arrived for an OECD conference last week, and Sánchez argues that he poses a flight risk. Toledo is said to have received the money, laundered through offshore accounts, in exchange for giving the firm approval to complete a highway connecting Brazil with the Peruvian coast in 2006.

At issue are the critical sectors II and III of the Inter-Oceanic Highway, through Cuzco and Madre de Dios departments, where the Andes drop into the Amazon Basin. (Jurist, AFP, Feb. 8; AP, Peru21, El Comercio, Feb. 7; BBC Mundo, Feb. 5; La Republica, Feb. 4)

The Inter-Oceanic Highway project has been mired in controversies over indigenous opposition and territorial disputes. It is now slated to be augmented with a transcontinental railway through the Amazon, to be built with Chinese aid.