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 short-circuited due to humidity, sparking the blaze.
“Police security for the Holy Father’s visit is assured,” Col. Manuel Rivera said.
The 69-foot (21-meter) 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.
In January 2017, vandals covered the statue in messages like “Out of the country…