Manuel Merino, an opposition deputy who won his seat with just 5,000 votes, assumed as president of Peru after the Congress removed Martín Vizcarra, after a controversial constitutional process that leads the country to an inevitable instability in the middle of the COVID-pandemic. 19.
Merino, who was and will continue to be the head of the Legislative Power in parallel to holding the Head of State, assumed in a brief ceremony in Congress as the third president of Peru in four years, while throughout the country there were protests – the vast majority peaceful, but not without episodes of violence – that cried out against the removal of Vizcarra and the “usurper” parliament.
Despite criticism and doubts about the decision of Congress, which on Monday voted overwhelmingly in favor of remove Vizcarra and to appoint Merino as his substitute in accordance with the Constitution, all the powers of the State assumed and accepted the appointment, such as the armed forces and the National Police, whose top leaders met personally with the new president.
The new president, from the center-right Popular Action party (AP), gave a brief speech to Congress after swearing in office, in which he ratified that he will respect the date of the general elections called for next April 11, 2021, in an attempt at quell protests against him and soften criticism of the impeachment of his predecessor.
These criticisms focus above all on the fear that now Congress and Executive, unified in practice in a single power, will opt for postpone elections and perpetuate their positions.
Respect the choices
“My first commitment is to ratify our democratic conviction and respect the electoral process (…) The electoral calendar must be respected, no one can change the date called to April 11, 2021, “said Merino, who also indicated that his Government” will grant all the resources “necessary for the celebration of the elections.
He then provided some guidelines on how he will proceed until July 2021 when he assumes a new government, among which he stressed that he will seek to “correct the errors” of his predecessors to stop being the “country with the worst handling of the pandemic” of COVID-19.
The mismanagement of this disease was in fact used by many parliamentarians as an argument to justify Vizcarra’s vacancy and as a sign of the “moral incapacity” that guaranteed his removal.
Likewise, Merino affirmed that during his tenure he will continue with the economic reactivation, strengthening large and small companies, and creating lost jobs.
However, he did not explain how he will do it. He also promised that he would convene a “cabinet of consensus and National unity“, made up of professionals” of the highest qualifications “and without political colors. This task was considered one of the most important and that will mark both the profile and the political interpretation of the vacancy, according to several analysts commented to Efe politicians.
“This Government must necessarily be a Transitional government, act as such. As a priority, it must respond to the serious health, economic and political crisis we are in … But the fundamental thing is to guarantee clean and transparent elections in April 2021, “political scientist Adriana Urrutia told Efe.
Many citizens and various political parties, in addition to the environment of former president Vizcarra, denounce that the vacancy was due to a “division” of positions and promises among those who voted in favor of it to defend particular interests.
Thus, the selection of ministers, the profiles and portfolios they occupy will have a special relevance. To dismiss this criticism, in his speech Merino affirmed that the votes against Vizcarra “were not bought”, as did several of the legislators who supported the motion.
Merino swore while outside the Congress the protests, which throughout the day were also extended to the surroundings of the Government Palace where the new president entered to begin the preparation of his cabinet.
The mobilizations were also replicated in cities throughout the country, led for the most part by young people mobilized by social networks who clamored against the congress “usurper” and “coup plotter” and in support of Vizcarra and his anti-corruption policies, according to them at risk under an ex-congressional presidency.
For hours there were runs, tear gas and arrests in the streets of downtown Lima, frequent episodes of violence that did not go to extremes either.
Meanwhile, now a civilian, Vizcarra resumed his private activities and was seen while attending a meeting with his lawyer to prepare his defense before the corruption accusations which ultimately led to his removal.
Trial against Vizcarra
Surprisingly calm and relaxed, Vizcarra even joked with the journalists who were waiting for him at the door of his residence in Lima and before whom he confirmed that this Thursday he will attend the summons of the prosecutor Germán Juárez, of the special team Car wash, who is investigating him for the alleged crimes of bribery, collusion and illicit association committed when he was governor of Moquegua.
He also confirmed that his lawyer has already appeared as his legal defender before the two prosecutors investigating these alleged irregular events and indicated that he will appear before both to offer them “everything they require.” As for the new president, the former president expressed his “concern”, since he is an authority that lacks “two basic conditions.”
“You need legality and legitimacy, and the legality is in question because the Constitutional Court has not yet manifested itself, and the legitimacy, who gives it? The village. Then, an authority that does not have defined legality and backing legitimacy raises concern, “he concluded.