Peru plunges into political upheaval as Congress oust President Vizcarra

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Vizcarra has said he will accept Congress’ vote and not take any legal action to counter it.

“Today, I am leaving the presidential palace. Today I’m going home, ”Vizcarra said in a speech Monday evening, surrounded by his cabinet in the courtyard of the presidential residence in downtown Lima.

Congress leader Manuel Merino, an agronomist and businessman from the Popular Action minority, is expected to assume the presidency on Tuesday and remain in office until the end of July 2021, when Vizcarra’s term is due to expire.

Merino called for calm after the vote and assured Peruvians that the April 11 presidential election would go ahead as planned.

“It’s already requested,” he said of the election in an interview with local station América Televisión.In lawmakers’ second effort to oust centrist Vizcarra in a matter of months, the opposition-dominated Congress presented 105 votes to oust him over accusations that, as governor, he had taken bribes. wine from companies that had won public works contracts.

The 105 votes far exceeded the threshold of 87 votes out of 130 needed to remove him from office. There were 19 votes against his ouster and 4 abstentions.

Vizcarra dismissed the corruption allegations as “baseless” and “false”. He warned Monday of “unforeseeable consequences” if lawmakers remove him before the April 11 elections, in which he is not eligible.

Vizcarra’s impeachment has plunged the world’s second-largest copper producer into political turmoil as it seeks to recover from an economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dozens of people gathered in Plaza San Martín in downtown Lima to support Vizcarra after news of his ouster was heard as police kept a close watch on the crowds.

A video circulated on social media showing Congressman Ricardo Burga, who voted in favor of the impeachment motion, punched in the face by a spectator as he spoke to television reporters.

Vizcarra, 57, did not have a party in the fragmented Congress and had a strained relationship with lawmakers, with whom he had frequently locked his anti-corruption agenda. He dissolved Congress last year after a long standoff, a move that drew criticism from right-wing lawmakers.

Vizcarra survived a first eviction attempt in September in a separate impeachment trial over alleged links to a case of irregular government contracts with a little-known singer. Only 32 deputies voted in favor of his removal in this vote.

In November, however, lawmakers voted to move forward with a new impeachment trial over accusations Vizcarra accepted bribes from companies that won public works contracts then. that he was governor of the southern region of Moquegua.

Vizcarra’s withdrawal could usher in a period of political tension in the months leading up to the election, with Peru already under pressure from economic instability and the impact of the pandemic, analysts said.

“Political unrest linked to the latest impeachment process and allegations of corruption add to the deep mistrust of the political class ahead of the next elections,” international company Eurasia said in a report earlier Monday.

“Coup in disguise”

The Vizcarra government has clashed with Merino in recent months over accusations he tried to invoke the military in his request to remove Vizcarra. Merino has denied any wrongdoing.

Analysts said Merino could push some populist measures in the months leading up to the elections in Peru.

« [Merino] would probably maintain the existing economic policy framework but would push forward some populist measures as it tried to gain public support, ”Eurasia said.

Vizcarra-friendly lawmakers rejected his ouster and warned the move would exacerbate instability in the Andean country.

“It’s a coup in disguise. We need calm, but also a lot of citizen surveillance, ”said George Forsyth, mayor and one of the early pioneers of the 2021 elections, on Twitter.

Francisco Sagastegui, a lawmaker for the centrist Partido Morado, called the vote “an incorrect decision”.

“We believe this is… a decision that adds a lot more uncertainty, creates problems and will seriously affect our citizens,” Sagastegui said.

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