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Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra ousted by Congress

November 10, 2020

Martin Vizcarra stands accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. While he rejects the allegations, he has said he will not fight the impeachment and step down immediately.

Peru I Präsident  Martin Vizcarra
Image: Peruvian Presidency/Reuters

Peru's Congress ousted President Martin Vizcarra on Monday in an impeachment vote over corruption allegations and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vizcarra announced he would not try to fight the ouster and would immediately leave the presidential palace. Analysts called the action by legislators an overt and risky power grab in a country where Vizcarra is significantly more popular than Congress.

His impeachment was supported by 105 legislators – more than the 87 votes needed for the two-thirds majority required to remove Peru's president. Many said they were casting their vote for his removal in the name of dead loved ones.

"Because of his negligence and incapacity, we've lost thousands of compatriots,'' lawmaker Robinson Gupioc said during the debate over Vizcarra's impeachment.

Read morePeru top court rejects bid to block impeachment vote 

Head of Congress, Manuel Merino, an agronomist and businessman from the minority Popular Action, is expected to take on the presidency on Tuesday and will remain in office until the end of July 2021, when his predecessor's term was due to expire.

Merino urged calm after the vote and assured Peruvians that the April 11 presidential election would go ahead as planned.

"It is already announced," he said about the election in an interview with local station America Television.

Read morePeru opens Machu Picchu for single Japanese tourist

'Unpredictable consequences'

Legislators brought the proceeding forward on allegations that Vizcarra received more than $630,000 (€533,000) in exchange for two construction projects while serving as governor of a small province in southern Peru in 2011-2014.

However, both Vizcarra and his supporters have rejected the corruption allegations against him as "baseless" and "false." He warned of "unpredictable consequences" earlier on Monday if lawmakers impeached him just months ahead of the election, in which he is not eligible to run.

Read more:  In Peru, Inca descendants restore forests 

After the decision, which came just weeks after he dodged another impeachment vote, dozens gathered at Plaza San Martin in downtown Lima in support of Vizcarra. In a late-night address, Vizcarra said he would not challenge the ruling but would act with Peru's best interests in mind.

Read moreCoronavirus travel chaos as Latin America barricades itself 

"Today I am leaving the government palace. Today I am going home," he said. The 57-year-old's removal could usher in a period of political tensions in the months leading up to elections as Peru is already strained by economic instability and the impact of the pandemic, some analysts say.

"Political turmoil related to the latest impeachment process and corruption allegations add to deep distrust of the political class ahead of upcoming elections," international firm Eurasia said in a report earlier on Monday.

lc/shs (Reuters, AP)

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