Peru’s President Merino resigns after deadly crackdown on protesters

Women hold candles next to the names of two people who were killed in clashes during protests following the ouster of President Martin Vizcarra, in Lima, Peru November 15, 2020. The writing reads "Inti, Jack, thank you for so much"
A vigil was held in Lima for two people killed in the protests

Peru’s interim president has resigned, a day after two people died during protests against his government, Manuel Merino, former speaker of Congress, had been in the post less than a week. He replaced President Martín Vizcarra, who last Monday was removed in an impeachment procedure over bribery allegations, which he denies.

Politicians had called for Mr Merino’s resignation after a violent crackdown on demonstrations against him, twelve ministers from his recently appointed cabinet resigned earlier on Sunday in protest against police brutality and his handling of the crisis. Congress failed to agree a replacement for Mr Merino when it met on Sunday, rejecting a team led by Rocío Silva Santisteban, a writer and former human rights activist, a new list, made up of an interim president and senior politicians from across the spectrum, was being drafted. Tens of thousands of demonstrators, many of them young, have been taking part in protests against Mr Vizcarra’s removal in recent days, they accuse Congress of staging a parliamentary coup. Mr Vizcarra, 57, has enjoyed continued support among many voters for his attempts at reform. Saturday’s protests in Lima were largely peaceful but clashes broke out towards the evening between police and protesters.

A TV grab taken as Manuel Merino announces his resignation in a televised message from the Government Palace, on 15 November 2020
Mr Merino announced his resignation in a televised address on Sunday

Police reportedly fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to repel demonstrators, some of whom had thrown fireworks and stones. Two students, Jack Pintado, 22, and Inti Sotelo, 24, were killed in the protests. “I want to let the whole country know that I’m resigning,” Mr Merino said in a televised address, there are concerns of a growing political crisis as Peru faces a severe economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Peru imposed one of the earliest and strictest lockdowns in Latin America to stop the spread of coronavirus – but has still seen cases rise rapidly.

Mr Merino had been expected to retain the presidency until July 2021, when Mr Vizcarra’s term was due to end, Mr Vizcarra has been embroiled in a bitter battle with Congress, which is dominated by rival parties, since he took office in March 2018. He has denied allegations that he accepted bribes worth 2.3m soles ($640,000; £487,000) when he was governor of the southern Moquegua region.

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