By Franklin Briceno and Christine Armario | Associated Press
LIMA, Peru — Peru’s Congress chose a new leader Monday expected to become the nation’s third president in the span of a week, a hopeful sign that the political crisis is on the verge of resolution.
Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of Francisco Sagasti, an engineer from the centrist Purple Party, as the legislature’s new president. By law, the head of Congress should become the country’s new interim president.
It will now fall on Sagasti to heal a nation bruised by a week of upheaval. The 76-year-old hails from a political part that voted against the ouster of President Martín Vizcarra, an anti-corruption crusader highly popular among Peruvians, which is likely to quell protests.
“What’s at stake is making a first step toward rebuilding confidence between the people and the state,” said Samuel Rotta, president of the Peruvian chapter of Transparency International.
Applause erupted in the legislative palace as Sagasti clinched the required majority vote. It was unclear how soon he might be sworn into office.
The Latin American nation’s political turmoil took a chaotic turn Sunday when interim leader Manuel Merino quit and Congress couldn’t decide on his replacement. That left Peru rudderless and in crisis less than a week after legislators ignited a storm of protest by removing Vizcarra.
Congress sparked the crisis a week ago when lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to oust Vizcarra. Using a 19th-century-era clause, legislators accused him of “permanent moral incapacity,” saying he took over $630,000 in bribes in exchange for two construction contracts while governor of a small province years ago.
Prosecutors are investigating the accusations, but Vizcarra has not been charged. He vehemently denies any wrongdoing.
The move outraged many in Peru, who denounced it as an illegal power grab by a Congress full of inexperienced politicians looking out for their own interests. Half of the lawmakers are under investigation for potential crimes, including money laundering and homicide. Vizcarra wanted to do away with their parliamentary immunity — a move popular with Peruvians but not with the legislature.
The little-known president of Congress, Manuel Merino, a rice farmer, was sworn into office last Tuesday as hundreds of Peruvians protested nearby. He promised to keep in place a scheduled presidential election in April. But his Cabinet appointments irked many, and a heavy-handed response by police fueled anger.
Peru has much on. the line: The country is in the throes of one of the world’s most lethal coronavirus outbreaks and political analysts say the constitutional crisis has cast the country’s democracy into jeopardy.
“I think this is the most serious democratic and human rights crisis we have seen since Fujimori was in power,” said analyst Alonso Gurmendi Dunkelberg, referring to the turbulent rule of strongman Alberto Fujimori from 1990 to 2000.
A network of human rights groups reported that 112 people were injured in Saturday’s protests from projectiles, batons and inhaling tear gas. Two died — Jack Pintado, 22, who was shot 11 times, including in the head, and Jordan Sotelo, 24, who was hit four …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment