By Jack Graham
November has been a month of immense political disorder in Peru; the nation has witnessed three presidents pass through the seat of power within a single week whilst protesters have taken to the streets of the capital in anger. Thousands of furious citizens have crowded the streets of Peru and have stormed social media outlets, all under the communal banner of #TheyMessedWithTheWrongGeneration.
In the face of an apparent constitutional crisis, the younger generation has sought to make their voices heard, pleading against the long trail of corruption that has tainted the highest offices within the Peruvian government for decades.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index has claimed Peru to be the 101st most corrupt nation in the world, whilst their southerly neighbours of Chile place 23rd.
Lima, the capital of Peru, continued to echo with calls for the removal of Manuel Merino, the first replacement for the former president, Martin Vizcarra. Vizcarra was removed from office following an impeachment upon grounds of “moral incapacity”, accusers have claimed that he interfered with corruption investigations and accepted numerous bribes from companies concerning public work contracts – all of which he has repeatedly denied.
His removal from office is being described as a coup d’etat by many, once more news outlets have been engrained with imagery of brutish clashes between protesters and police units clad in riot gear, armed with tear gas canisters and wielding rifles releasing barrages of rubber bullets into large crowds. The crowds awoke the city of Lima with the unceasing chant “Merino, listen up, the people reject you!” – a message that eventually got through to Merino, he resigned following the rising public opposition against him and the unfortunate killing of two protestors, Jack Pintado, 22, and Inti Sotelo, 24.
According to The Guardian, analysts have confirmed that Vizcarra’s removal from office was coordinated by his political enemies, opposers of his anti-graft reforms which sought to eradicate political corruption from the highest levels of the Peruvian government.
Vizcarra was one of the most popular Presidents of his generation, despite the Covid-19 outbreak. His approval rating had floated above 50%, causing political demonstrators to claim that Congress has deviated from the democratic norms and have acted against the will of the people.
Since Merino’s resignation, however, yet another President has taken up the mantle of authority. Francisco Sagasti assumed office on 17th November and faces an immensely difficult challenge.
The people of Peru now look to Sagasti to repair the damages caused by the ongoing turmoil, to act upon the furies of his protesters and to tend to the wounds inflicted upon Peruvian reputation. Sagasti said his inauguration was “not a day of celebration”, stating “we can take action from Congress, from the executive, so that this does not happen again.”
Vizcarra has publicly shown support for Sagasti, tweeting “I congratulate Francisco Sagasti on his election as President of Parliament. Only a person with democratic principles will be able to face the difficult situation that the country is going through”. Sagasti has shown himself to be a promising President, one who will act upon the requests of the majority and seek to put an end to the overwhelming corruption that darkens Peruvian democracy.
The new President has already reacted to the overwhelming levels of police violence that occurred in recent weeks, retiring three lieutenant-generals and fifteen generals of the National Police whilst ordering further lengths of reform. This comes in response to the deaths of the two aforementioned students, Jack Pintado and Inti Sotelo, who both lost their lives at the use of firearm projectiles.
Time will only tell whether Sagasti will step up to the plate and do his nation justice, whether he will bring a cease to the overwhelming levels of corruption within his nation or if he will merely pass office without significant effect. He will remain in office for what was the rest of Vizcarra’s term, meaning that he only has until 28th July 2021 to refashion his government.
Image: Protesters Blur via Creative Commons