By L. Mizne
On the 10th of November, Peru's Congress voted to impeach the now former president, Martin Vizcarra, over allegations of taking bribes for government contracts. More specifically, he was accused of accepting a $640,000 bribe while serving as governor of southern Moquegua. Though he denies the allegations, Vizcarra has moved out of the position and was replaced shortly after by Manuel Merino, who had been a speaker of congress up until then. Many are frustrated by this choice and have taken to the streets to protest against it. Peru was already struggling with the economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, and this has only thrown the country into further turmoil.
In response to Merino becoming president, thousands of protestors rallied in Lima on the 14th to protest both peacefully, and sometimes, more drastically, pressuring the new government and congress. Footage showed the police using tear gas and rubber bullets against the protestors, some of whom, in turn, used rocks to break windows and cash machines. These riots led to 40 missing, 90 wounded and hospitalised, and even 2 men killed by gunshot wounds. The former president expressed his dejection over the deaths, and they caused such commotion that even some international human rights organisations expressed their concern regarding the force used on protestors by the police.
Though Vizcarra has always had support from many Peruvians, there has always been tension between himself and the congress ever since he was elected in March 2018: specifically regarding his anti-corruption agenda. The allegations currently held against him are being investigated by prosecutors and this investigation has only worsened the country’s economy. The Novo Sol (Peruvian currency) has reached record lows this year, enough for the Central Bank to feel the need to intervene and help stabilise the currency.
After the major backlash received in his first week as president, with protests bigger than had been seen in the past decade, Merino resigned on Sunday the 15th. The Peruvian legislature appointed Francisco Sagasti, a first-time legislator, as the new president on the following day. Sagasti, along with the Congress (which many find corrupt) will have the responsibility of addressing and fixing these emergencies regarding both political and economic stability. However, due to his inexperience and the unpopularity of congress, many Peruvians have little faith in the future and can only hope the country’s state will improve.