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Peru faces turmoil without President
after popular leader's impeachment
Angela Ponce/Bloomberg

Peru's Interim leader force to quit by demostrators as crisis deepens

- Previous interim president quit Sunday after deadly protests
- Peru faces night without President after disputes in Congress

By John Quigley/Bloomberg

LIMA
Petroleumworld 11 16 2020

Peruvians are facing their first night without a head of state after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement to elect a new president and end a protracted political crisis.

Legislators will meet at 10 a.m. local time on Monday to evaluate a new candidate to replace Manuel Merino, who quit earlier Sunday as interim president after six days.

Shortly after the single-chamber congress voted down leftist lawmaker, Rocio Silva, to form a new government, the centrist Purple Party proposed Francisco Sagasti as its candidate late Sunday night to become the nation's third president in a week. He's held posts at the World Bank and United Nations, and is seen as a conciliatory figure in congress.

Divisions in congress are deepening a political crisis that began last week with the unexpected impeachment of President Martin Vizcarra just five months before a general election. Lawmakers pressed for the ouster of Vizcarra -- a popular leader who's had strained relationships with congress and lacked a political party to defend him -- even though polls showed that only one in five of Peruvians supported the measure.

Citizens took to the streets during the week in the nation's biggest demonstrations in two decades, prompting Merino to quit. “At this time, when the country is experiencing one of its biggest political crises, I want the whole country to know that I'm presenting my irrevocable resignation,” Merino said in a televised address earlier on Sunday.

Vizcarra was impeached over allegations of bribery. The political turmoil could cloud prospects for elections due in April, and further hamstring an economy that contracted 30% in the second quarter because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Peruvian sol has dropped 1.6% in a week, the biggest decline among emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Merino said his cabinet will remain in place until a new leader takes over, to avoid a power vacuum. As the head of Congress, he was next in the line of succession to replace Vizcarra.

Oscar Urviola, a former head of the country's Constitutional Court, said on the Canal N network that another alternative is for Congress to annul its decision to oust Vizcarra.

Move Cheered

Merino's announcement earlier was greeted with cheers from demonstrators in the streets of Lima and other cities, according to video broadcast on Canal N. Others stood at their windows banging pots with spoons, as they have done every night since the Nov. 9 impeachment vote.

Speaking to reporters outside his Lima home, Vizcarra said while he welcomes Merino's resignation, he urged the Constitutional Court to hold an emergency meeting to decide whether he was legally forced from office.

Why Peru Is Always Just One Step Away from Chaos: QuickTake

Thousands of Peruvians, many of them university students, defied social-distancing rules and marched through the center of Lima on Saturday to call for Merino to quit.

While the demonstrations were largely peaceful, there were some violent clashes with police, and two men died from gunshot wounds.

Further political gridlock and protests threaten to hamper the fight against the coronavirus in a country with one of the world's highest per-capita death rates from Covid-19.

( Recasts lead with meeting on Monday and new candidate for presidency )

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