Peru’s President Merino resigns after violent protests

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Peru’s interim president, Manuel Merino, has resigned.

Merino announced his resignation in a televised address in Lima, Peru, on Sunday November 15, 2020.

The resignation comes less than a week into his new administration, after a night of protests calling for his removal and a subsequent police crackdown left at least two dead and dozens wounded.

“I want to let the whole country know that I’m resigning,” Merino said in a televised address on Sunday.

He added the move was “irrevocable” and called for “peace and unity”.

Merino assumed the presidency on Tuesday after the opposition-dominated Congress voted to remove his predecessor Martin Vizcarra over bribery allegations. Vizcarra has denied any wrongdoing.

Protesters have since decried Merino’s rise to power, accusing the legislature of staging a parliamentary coup.

The unrest had been largely peaceful until Saturday night, with Peru’s Ombudsman warning on Twitter late Saturday that security forces had begun “misusing force and throwing tear gas without justification” against young protesters who had gathered in the center of the capital city of Lima.

Merino’s resignation followed a groundswell of politicians urging him to step down, citing the violence against the country’s citizens.

The current head of Congress, Luis Valdez said earlier on Sunday that all of the legislature’s political parties had agreed to ask for the “immediate” resignation.

“We should put above all else the lives of the Peruvian people,” said Valdez, who himself plans to resign.

Valdez had said the legislature would begin an impeachment process if Merino did not willingly leave office.

Hours before Saturday’s violence, protesters had gathered in Lima’s central Plaza San Martin, where they unfurled a massive Peruvian flag and sang the national anthem.

“We want the voice of the people to be heard,” protester Fernando Ramirez told the Associated Press news agency on Saturday night as he banged a spoon against a pot.

“The march is not for Vizcarra to return, it is strictly against Merino. We are tired of corruption, of the usual politicians who divide and impose their personal interests,” Cesar Anchante, a University of Lima graduate who marched in a rally Saturday, said.

Health authorities said the dead included Jack Pintado, 22, who was shot 11 times, including in the head, and Jordan Sotelo, 24, who was hit four times in the thorax near his heart.

Ousted president Vizcarra blamed the violence on repression by Merino’s “illegal and illegitimate government”.

“The country will not allow the deaths of these brave young men to go unpunished,” Vizcarra wrote on Twitter.

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