Peru’s President Vizcarra ousted in Congress impeachment vote

LIMA (AFP) – Peru’s Congress voted on Monday to impeach and oust President Martin Vizcarra over allegations he took kickbacks from developers while serving as a regional governor in 2014.

After an impeachment trial that lasted nearly eight hours, the motion to remove the popular president was approved by 105 votes to 19, with four abstentions – far exceeding the 87 votes needed to impeach.

“The resolution declaring the vacancy of the presidency of the republic has been approved,” declared Congress leader Manuel Merino, who under the constitution will take over the presidential functions until the end of the current term in July 2021.

Vizcarra declared he was leaving office with his head “held high”, and ruled out taking legal action to resist Congress’ decision.

“I leave the government palace as I entered two years, eight months ago: with my head held high,” he said, surrounded by his ministers on the patio of the government house, adding he would leave immediately for his private home.

Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra. PHOTO: AP

“I’m leaving with a clear conscience and with my duty fulfilled,” said Vizcarra, who enjoyed record levels of popularity in his 32 months in office.

People held marches and banged pots and pans in a show of support for him in Lima and other cities after his impeachment.

Vizcarra’s tumultuous presidency ended in a similar fashion to that of the man he replaced, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker who was forced to resign under threat of imminent impeachment over corruption allegations in 2018. “Peru comes out weaker institutionally. Merino will be a weak president, that is the scenario in the context of general elections against the backdrop of a pandemic,” political analyst Augusto Alvarez Rodrich told AFP.

Peru will hold general and presidential elections in April 2021.

Merino, 59, was sworn in at a special session of Congress yesterday, becoming Peru’s third president since 2016, reflecting the institutional fragility which has characterised the South American country since independence from Spain in 1821.