Peru’s Coup Leader Resigns After Police Kill Two Protestors, Injure Dozens

“Congresista Manuel Merino De Lama” by Congreso de la Republica del Perú is licensed under CC BY 2.0

by P.N.

SALT LAKE CITY — Manuel Merino resigned his post as interim president on Sunday amid some of the biggest protests that Peru has ever seen. For nearly a week, Peruvians have taken to the streets in order to voice their discontent after the popular President Vizcarra was removed from office by Congress for “moral incapacity,” based on allegations of corruption. During his term as President, Vizcarra himself had pledged to root out widespread governmental corruption. More than half of Peru’s lawmakers were under investigation at the time of Vizcarra’s removal last Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

Merino, who was himself under investigation for multiple charges of nepotism, had tried to get rid of Vizcarra once before. After recordings surfaced of then-President Vizcarra discussing an allegedly illegal contract made by the Ministry of Culture, Congress launched impeachment proceedings on September 11. As head of Congress, Merino was the next in line to take the Presidency. He immediately called up Peru’s military chiefs to ask them for support, but Congress voted against the impeachment and his ambitions were quashed.

In October, Congress took action against Vizcarra once again. This time, they postponed his trial to gather more evidence and ultimately found him guilty of “moral incapacity” to hold office. But as Merino stepped into power on the 10th of November, the Peruvian masses had already mobilized against his regime. The next week was filled with protest against a government which the people believed to be illegitimate, and rage against a system many see as fundamentally corrupt. It was also filled with tear gas and rubber bullets deployed by Peruvian cops against protestors. In the course of the rebellion, over 100 were wounded, 40 more were “disappeared” and two young men have been shot dead. The Peruvian Press Council also reports that more that 20 journalists were assaulted or arrested by the National Police.

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The majority of Merino’s cabinet resigned shortly after the first deaths were reported, and he followed suit, saying that he only wanted “what was best” for Peru’s democracy. His government will remain in place until Congress chooses a new interim President, pending national elections in April.

The Peruvian people are now celebrating a hard-fought, if temporary, victory. This rebellion serves as a demonstration of their collective strength and tenacity, and of their righteous anger against rampant corruption and injustice, from both the right and the so-called “left”. But this small win has been a long time coming. Alberto Fujimori’s decade-long reign, under which the CIA-funded National Intelligence Service paid millions in bribes to politicians and businesses, is still fresh in the minds of many Peruvians. The country’s political leadership since then has been little more than a peanut gallery of neoliberal oligarchs. To those who yearn for liberation from the State that grinds the peasants and working poor under its heel, there can be no return to normal. So, we offer our undying support to the people of Peru in their struggle, and declare once more: All power to the people!