Peruvians protest against impeachment of President Martin Vizcarra

Demonstration in Lima, November 12.

The dismissal of President Martin Vizcarra is definitely not happening in Peru. To the cries of “Merino will never be my president! “ or “This Congress does not represent me! “, and in a concert of casseroles, tens of thousands of Peruvians took to the streets of Lima and many cities in the country, Thursday, November 12, for the fourth day in a row, to protest against the installation, in the armchair Presidential, Manuel Merino, until then President of the Congress.

Yet peaceful, the demonstration was put down in the capital by tear gas and rubber bullets – which was denied by the new Minister of the Interior – injuring several people, including journalists, including a photographer from Agence France-Presse. About ten people were arrested.

Monday, November 9, 105 parliamentarians out of 130 voted for the dismissal of Mr. Vizcarra for “Permanent moral incapacity”. They accuse him of having received 630,000 dollars (533,000 euros) in bribes for public works works when he was governor of Moquegua (south), between 2011 and 2014. Charges for which no investigation judicial process has not yet been opened. A first impeachment attempt had failed in September, after the revelation of recordings implicating him in another case.

Accusations of “coup”

In the street, but also in intellectual circles, many voices have been raised to denounce a ” Rebellion “ against Mr. Vizcarra, who had made the fight against corruption the seal of his presidency. “The term ‘coup d’état’ is too imprecise, considers Gustavo Gorriti, the director of the investigative media IDL-Reporteros. But one can speak of abusive and distorted use of the figure of “moral incapacity” which must question us on the legality of this change of government, even if the law was not violated openly. “

After the first impeachment procedure in September, the executive filed an appeal before the Constitutional Court (TC) on the use of this concept with blurred outlines. The TC said it would rule on the matter on Wednesday, November 18 – although this should not affect the current impeachment, which ex-President Vizcarra has decided not to appeal against.

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Apart from Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, no country had formally recognized Mr. Merino on Thursday evening. The Organization of American States expressed its “Deep concern”, called them “Political actors” at “Guarantee the realization of the national elections called for April 11, 2021” and asked the TC to “Pronounce on legality and legitimacy” of dismissal. But no recognition, either, of the new president.

“Beyond the questionable legitimacy of the dismissal, we can have a political reading, points out Kevin Parthenay, professor of political science at the University of Tours. There was a very strong opposition between Martin Vizcarra and Manuel Merino, and there was a real desire to break the executive from Parliament. ” For Gustavo Gorriti, “The impeachment session was nothing other than a parliamentary lynching”.

In September 2019, Mr. Vizcarra dissolved Congress, which he accused of obstructing the proper conduct of the fight against corruption, especially after the revelations of the Odebrecht affair – which led to the arrest of the last three former presidents of the country (Alejandro Toledo, Ollanta Humala and Pedro Pablo Kukzynski) and the suicide of a fourth, Alan Garcia.

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The reforms undertaken during his presidency won him hostility from much of Congress. Its support for the reform of education, in particular, was displeased: in recent years, the university regulatory body has closed some fifty private establishments that do not meet the minimum quality criteria. However, several leaders of parliamentary groups that promoted the dismissal of Mr. Vizcarra led or taught in these universities.

Corruption, “a structural problem”

Half of parliamentarians are also themselves subject to various judicial inquiries for corruption, money laundering, fraud and even homicide. Luis Valdez, now president of the Congress, accumulates 52 of them all by himself. “Corruption is a structural problem that affects all Peruvian political elites, explains Kevin Parthenay. It’s a very long chain that goes back to ex-president Alberto Fujimori [1990-2000, en prison pour des crimes commis lors de la lutte contre la guérilla du Sentier lumineux].

Although the country has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic (with 35,000 deaths, Peru has the highest number of deaths as a proportion of its population) and the ensuing economic crisis, Martin Vizcarra remained very popular, with 57% of favorable opinions. Nearly 80% of Peruvians believe the investigation into the corruption allegations should have waited until the end of his term.

Fears of political and social instability are great for the coming months. “As the fight against Covid-19 finally began to bear fruit, it could be reduced to nothing, fears journalist Gustavo Gorriti. If a second wave comes amidst the turmoil, it will be devastating for the country. “


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