March 22, 2018 / 12:02 PM / 8 months ago

Venezuela socialists celebrate Peru leader's fall with fireworks

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s ruling socialists exulted over the fall of Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski with a fireworks display following months of enmity between the two governments.

FILE PHOTO: Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski leaves Government Palace after presenting his resignation to Congress in Lima, Peru March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Kuczynski, a 79-year-old former Wall Street banker who once held U.S. citizenship, has led Latin American criticism of President Nicolas Maduro’s government over rights and democracy, even banning him from attending a summit in Lima next month.

But he resigned on Wednesday in the face of near-certain impeachment over a graft investigation into his connections to Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company that has acknowledged bribing officials across Latin America.

“These fireworks are because someone is going! Goodbye PPK, farewell PPK!” boomed Socialist Party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello to a cheering crowd, using an acronym for Kuczynski’s full name, as fireworks went off overhead during a rally late on Wednesday.

“Here are some fireworks to remind the world - if you mess with Venezuela, you’re out!” he added in the event broadcast on his weekly TV show ‘Bashing with the Sledgehammer.’

Supporters chanted: “He’s gone, he’s gone!”

Despite Kuczynski’s fall, Maduro still faces strong opposition from most major nations around Latin America.

Peru’s new leader - Vice President Martin Vizcarra - may follow the same hard line on Venezuela as his predecessor.

Defying Peru’s ban, Maduro has vowed to be at the mid-April Summit of the Americas, which his biggest international critic - U.S. President Donald Trump - is also due to attend.

“I was looking forward to greeting him (Kuczynski) again. I thought he was going to welcome me, but he won’t be there, so when I arrive, who will receive me in Lima?” he said on state TV, musing: “Such is life.”

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez also laid into Peru’s outgoing president, calling him, on Twitter, a “self-styled imperialist lapdog” and “evil person” who was heading for the “rubbish bin of history.”

Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, Corina Pons and Vivian Sequera; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker

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