Peru President Merino Resigns After Only 5 Days In Power

KEY POINTS:

  • Peru’s President Manuel Merino resigned Sunday, just five days after taking office.
  • Merino, 59, stepped down shortly after a crisis session of Congress called on him to quit power before 6:00 pm (2300 GMT) or face censure.
  • Congress failed to agree on a new president in a vote Sunday night.

Peru’s President Manuel Merino resigned Sunday, just five days after taking office, sparking celebrations in the capital Lima following street protests against him and the ousting of his popular predecessor.

Merino, 59, stepped down shortly after a crisis session of Congress called on him to quit power before 6:00 pm (2300 GMT) or face censure.

“I want to let the whole country know that I’m resigning,” Merino said in a televised address, a day after a police crackdown on protesters left at least two people dead.

Congress failed to agree on a new president in a vote Sunday night. Leftist legislator and former human rights activist Rocio Silva Santisteban, supposedly a consensus candidate, needed 60 votes but she only got 42, with 52 against and 25 abstentions.

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“Congress had in its hands the solution to this political crisis that they generated. However, today they have turned their backs on the country,” former economy minister Vizcarra Maria Antonieta Alva tweeted.

Party whips then held a closed-door meeting as thousands of protesters remained peacefully on the streets, undisturbed by police.

Thousands have taken to the streets in days of protests against Merino following the ouster of his predecessor Martin Vizcarra, who was impeached by Congress on corruption allegations on Monday.

Elections are scheduled for April 2021 and Merino was scheduled to leave power in July, when Vizcarra’s mandate was to end.

The Congress ultimatum came after the health ministry said two protesters were killed on Saturday during a massive and peaceful march in Lima, which was repressed by police firing shotgun pellets and tear gas.

Merino said that to avoid a “power vacuum” the 18 ministers he swore in on Thursday would temporarily remain in their posts, though almost all had resigned in the wake of Saturday’s crackdown on protests.

His resignation was greeted by noisy celebrations in Lima, with demonstrators taking to the streets sounding horns and banging pots.

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“We succeeded. Do you realize what we are capable of doing?” Peru national soccer team midfielder Renato Tapia wrote on social media.

Some lawmakers questioned the wisdom of removing Vizcarra in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and a crippling recession.

The pandemic has hit Peru hard, with the politically fragile country having the world’s highest per capita death rate with nearly 35,000 fatalities, and GDP plunging over 30 percent in the second quarter.

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