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Peruvian President resigns amid widespread protests

By IANS Updated: Nov 16, 2020 5:44 pm

Lima, Nov 16 (IANS): Peruvian President Manuel Merino, who was appointed last week following his predecessor Martin Vizcarra’s impeachment, has resigned amid protests that broke out across the country after he assumed the post.

“I want to inform the entire country that I presented my irrevocable resignation … and I invoke peace and unity of all Peruvians,” Xinhua news agency quoted Merino as sayingin a televised address to the nation on Sunday.

He made the announcement after the Peruvian Congress held a crisis session on Sunday and asked him to resign amid the social protests, which killed at least two people, according to local media reports.

After Vizcarra was removed from office November 9 for alleged bribery when he was governor of the southern department of Moquegua between 2011 and 2014, thousands of people across the country staged some of the largest protests in decades.

The week-long rallies descended into chaos on November 14.

At least 112 people were injured, some after inhaling tear gas, and 41 were still missing, according to Peru’s National Human Rights coordinator.

At least nine had suffered gunshot wounds, health officials said.

“Nothing justifies that a legitimate protest should trigger the deaths of Peruvians,” Merino said in his address, adding that “these events should be thoroughly investigated by the corresponding authorities to determine all responsibilities”.

“My commitment is to Peru and I will do my best to guarantee the constitutional succession that Congress determines,” the 59-year-old politician and businessman added.

Merino became the third president of Peru to serve during the 2016-2021 presidential term, following Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Vizcarra.

Prior to Merino’s announcement, Luis Valdez, Peru’s president of Congress, announced that the Legislative Board of Directors would be renewed to begin the process of choosing a new president.

Members of the Purple Party, who largely voted against Vizcarra’s removal, presented a proposal for his return to office.

“Vizcarra and his cabinet will resume their positions immediately to continue with the efforts against the pandemic and the economic crisis. We Peruvians cannot wait,” the party’s proposal stated.

The ousted leader said on Sunday that “a big step has been taken to restore democracy in our country”, which has been mired in protests in recent days.

“The resignation of Merino is a step; but it does not solve the problem, because the call that all of Peru has made is not for Merino to step aside, but to recover democracy in our country,” Vizcarra told the media.

Peru’s recent political shakeup came as the South American nation was battling the coronavirus pandemic and what was expected to be its worst economic contraction in a century.

The International Monetary Fund has projected a 14 per cent decline in Peru’s gross domestic product this year.

By IANS Updated: Nov 16, 2020 5:44:57 pm