Fire dam­ages Christ statue days be­fore pope visit

Con­flict­ing re­ports on whether blaze was an ar­son or ac­ci­dent.

The Citizens' Voice - - Nation & World - BY MAURI­CIO MUNOZ AND MARTIN ME­JIA

LIMA, Peru — A gi­ant Christ statue in Peru’s cap­i­tal that was do­nated by a con­struc­tion com­pany at the cen­ter of Latin Amer­ica’s largest cor­rup­tion scan­dal was dam­aged Satur­day in a fire, days be­fore Pope Fran­cis is set to ar­rive in the South Amer­i­can na­tion.

Peru­vians awoke to find nearly the en­tire back of the statue, perched on a bar­ren desert bluff over­look­ing the Pa­cific Ocean, charred black.

A spokesper­son with Peru’s fire­fight­ing corps told RPP Noti­cias that two dozen fire­fight­ers re­sponded to the blaze and that an early work­ing the­ory was the Christ of the Pa­cific was pur­posely set aflame.

How­ever po­lice later told state news agency An­d­ina that elec­tri­cal ca­bles for the statue’s light­ing had short­cir­cuited due to hu­mid­ity, spark­ing the blaze.

“Po­lice se­cu­rity for the Holy Fa­ther’s visit is as­sured,” Col. Manuel Rivera said.

The 69-foot statue was do­nated by Brazil­ian com­pany Ode­brecht in 2011, and for many Peru­vians it has be­come a sour re­minder of the com­pany’s il­le­gal ma­neu­ver­ings to court and bribe high-rank­ing of­fi­cials in ex­change for lu­cra­tive pub­lic works con­tracts.

The Christ statue’s burn­ing comes five days be­fore Fran­cis is sched­uled to ar­rive in Peru. Peru­vians are ex­pected to be pay­ing close at­ten­tion to whether he ad­dresses cor­rup­tion.


A man rests with his bi­cy­cle near the fire-charred Christ of the Pa­cific statue in Lima, Peru, on Satur­day.

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