In Peru, a president ousted after being accused of mishandling Covid

Andean nation, which has one of world’s highest per capita death rates from coronavirus, gets new leader six months before election

Namita Singh
Wednesday 11 November 2020 11:55 GMT
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Peru lawmakers vote to remove President Vizcarra
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Peru’s Congress has ousted president Martín Vizcarra in an impeachment vote over allegations that he handed out government contracts in exchange for bribes and mismanaged the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

During the five-hour debate on Monday, congressman Robinson Gupioc told his colleagues: "Because of his negligence and incapacity we've lost thousands of compatriots." 

Nearly 35,000 people in Peru have died from Covid-19, one of the world’s highest per capita death rates.

Accepting the vote from the Congress, Mr Vizcarra said he would not take any legal action in retaliation.

“Today I am leaving the presidential palace. Today I am going home,” he said during a speech in the courtyard of the presidential residence.

Manuel Merino, the head of Congress from the Popular Action party, is expected to assume the presidency on Tuesday and serve the office until the end of July 2021 – when Mr Vizcarra’s term was due to conclude.

Mr Merino assured Peruvians that the presidential election scheduled for 11 April would go on as planned.  

Mr Vizcarra has also been accused of taking $670,000 (£487,000) in bribes from a construction company while he served as governor of Peru’s southern state of Moquegua in 2011-2014, which he has denied.  

Before the vote, he warned of “unpredictable consequences” if lawmakers impeached him ahead of next year’s election. 

Former Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra waves to the press upon his arrival home after leaving the Presidential Palace in Lima, following his impeachment by an overwhelming majority Congress vote
Former Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra waves to the press upon his arrival home after leaving the Presidential Palace in Lima, following his impeachment by an overwhelming majority Congress vote (AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Vizcarra survived a similar proceeding in September when his congressional opponents accused him of obstructing an investigation into a $50,000 (£37,000) contract for an obscure singer hired to give motivational talks to public employees.  

Then, only 32 lawmakers in the chamber voted in favour of ousting him; this is compared to Monday’s second attempt when the opposition-dominated Congress mustered 105 votes in support of the motion, while 19 voted against it and four abstained.

Mr Vizcarra, who became the president in March 2018, was accused of misusing public funds in the first impeachment proceeding, which he denied.  

The outgoing president, who has no party representation in Congress, has long battled lawmakers over his anti-corruption agenda. He dissolved Congress last year following the standoff, a move that prompted criticism by right-wing opponents.

However, the president enjoyed widespread public support due to his anti-corruption drive and his removal has brought renewed political turmoil to the Andean nation, which is reeling from economic recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

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