On9 November the Peruvian Parlament voted in favour of the impeachment of President Martín Vizcarra by 105 votes affirmative, 19 against and 4 abstentions. The president was lifted from his political position after his name appeared in the context of a corruption investigation. The facts that judiciary is investigating go back to the period from 2014 to 2016 when Vizcarra was the Governor of the Moquegua region, where he would have agreed to favour public works concessions in exchange for money. Some testimonies have confirmed that Vizcarra received approximately 1,300,000 sol, 300,000 euros circa, in exchange for a piloted award of some construction contracts.
Immediately after the decision, the former president appeared on television where he spoke to the nation. «Today I am leaving the Government Palace, today I am going home, even though there are countless possibilities to take legal action to prevent this decision. I don’t intend to take any legal action, I don’t want in any way to be able to understand that my spirit of service to the people ditched only for the desire to exercise power. All my life I have acted transparently and put all my efforts, skills and heart at the service of the people and you all know it. I walk out of the Government Palace as I entered two years and eight months ago, with my head held high and ready to face the investigations that correspond to dealing with the falsehood of the complaints as part of a fair trial. I reaffirm to the Peruvian people that I leave with a clear conscience and with my duty fulfilled. We hope that Peru will always follow the path of good, we hope that the future will be the best for the Peruvian people and hopefully we will soon find out the reasons behind the decision-making process taken today at the Congress».
Protests erupted after the nomination of Vizcarra’s successor, Manuel Merino. For the population, this choice represented a “white golpe”, impeachment ordered by the majority of the government, as not to lose their privileges. In fact, Merino took over the presidency ad interim as an elected leader of the Congress and member of the Popular Action Party. In addition to always being an opponent of Vizcarra, he was also the main promoter of the action of impeachment.
The country stands in the larger political chaos, we must also add the though management of the health epidemic caused by Covid-19. Indeed, President Vizcarra in the year of his election had dismissed the Parliament and called for new elections. One of the main elements in the President’s policies was always represented by the fight against corruption. For this reason, he had chosen the way of reform to eliminate the plague by establishing a referendum. This was approved by the population and should have modified the Constitutional Court, the regulation of party funding and would have denied the immediate re-election of parliamentarians.
The citizens called to vote approved the reform with a large majority, but the Congress refused to accept these reforms and Vizcarra chose to dismiss the Parliament. So, the parliamentarians responded by declaring the presidency suspended, and the government rejected the act. As a result, the institutional crisis led to the accusation act of the President.
The protests in front of the Parliament in Lima, which had been peaceful until the nomination of Merino, quickly erupted and spread all across the country to the cry of “Merino is not my President”. All over Peru, people began to take to the streets and the police failed to manage the various protests, which quickly became a moment of clashes with police who started to repress the protesters with violence.
Protests and violence continued throughout the week until Saturday 14 November, when two protesters were killed by Peruvian police in Lima. The population immediately denounced the fact, also showing numerous videos in which the police were seen using tear gas and shooting rubber bullets at human height, while sources from the Ministry of the Interior, headed by Gastón Rodríguez, claimed known that violent repressive methods had not been used.
After the news of the death of the demonstrators the protests increased and the following day thirteen government ministers resigned from office. After that, Merino made a speech and announced that he had «presented his irrevocable resignation to the presidency of the Republic». And then he continued: «All Peru is in mourning, nothing justifies that a legitimate defence should lead to the death of the Peruvians. These events must be thoroughly investigated by the corresponding authorities to determine any responsibility».
Cases of corruption in the past
Merino’s resignation and Vizcarra’s impeachment are only the last cases of outgoing Presidents in Peru. It is enough to go back to 2018, the year in which Vizcarra was elected, to find the name of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a well-known economist and politician in the country, who after only two years in office saw his name in the register of suspects in the great enquiry of Odebrecht, an important Brazilian industrial group operating in the fields of engineering, environment, transport, infrastructure and oil. In Brazil, the inquiry led to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.
Before Kuczynski, the charge of corruption had touched Ollanta Humala, President of Peru from 2011 to 2016 who is now on parole. Together with his wife, he was accused of money laundering. Five years before, Alan García receiving an arrest order for corruption and killed himself.
From 2001 to 2006, accusations of corruption also affected Alejandro Toledo, who at the end of his term escaped to the United States where he was arrested. Finally, Alberto Fujimori, the authoritarian leader who governed Peru from 1990 to 2000, was forced to step down after being accused and sentenced for crimes against human rights, including murder, kidnapping, forced sterilization, violence and torture. The court sentenced him to 25 years in prison. Fujimori escaped to Japan but in 2005 he was stopped while he was visiting Chile. The court trial increased the number of years of jail to 32, although in 2017 he was granted a presidential pardon. All of this was revoked the following year when he was imprisoned after a new trial that saw him involved in the deaths of six people.
Current political situation
On 17 November Parliament elected its third president in a week. Francisco Sagasti, a member of the political party that voted against the removal of President Martín Vizcarra, will lead the country at this time of crisis. Sagasti will have to deal with one of the worst economic crises that the country has ever faced, worsened by the pandemic situation. The president has been nominated ad interim and new ballots will be taken in April 2021. The hope is that Peru can return to normality and fight together against corruption and Covid-19, in order to achive political and economic stability.