29 Killed As Bus Plunges Off Cliff In Peru

 

Twenty-nine passengers died, including a child, and more than 20 were injured when a bus plummeted from a cliff in Peru early Tuesday, officials said, in the country’s third multiple-victim transport accident in four days.

The accident happened on a narrow stretch of the Carretera Central road some 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of the capital Lima.

Police commander Cesar Cervantes told TV Peru there was a child among the dead and two among the injured. There had been 63 passengers on the bus, and local official Freddy Laorte said 29 of them had perished.

A search and rescue effort was underway for possible survivors and to recover bodies, the police department added on Twitter.

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Cervantes said “recklessness” contributed to Tuesday’s accident, adding that the bus had been traveling “at high speed.”

It hit a rock and plunged into an abyss some 200 meters (650 feet) deep, according to survivor accounts.

On Sunday, 14 people died when two boats collided on the Amazon river in Peru.

An undetermined number remains missing.

Two days earlier, another bus fell into a ravine in the country’s southeast, killing 17 people.

Road accidents are common in the Andean country due to factors including speeding motorists, poorly maintained highways, a lack of road signs and poor traffic safety enforcement.

Peru’s President Sworn In, Vows New Constitution

Peru’s President-elect Pedro Castillo waves upon his arrival at the Palacio de Torre Tagle, in Lima, Peru, July 28, 2021. 

 

 

Pedro Castillo was sworn in as Peru’s fifth president in three years Wednesday on the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence, promising an end to corruption and a new constitution.

The 51-year-old rural schoolteacher, who has vowed to upend a quarter century of neo-liberal government, enters the job with a lengthy to-do list: tame the coronavirus epidemic, reactivate a flagging economy and end years of political turmoil.

“I swear by the people of Peru for a country without corruption and for a new constitution,” he declared before Congress, coming back to a campaign promise to change Peru’s free-market friendly founding law.

The existing charter is a relic of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, serving jail time for corruption and crimes against humanity, and father of Castillo’s main presidential rival, the right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori.

Insisting Peru could not “remain a prisoner” of the 1993 constitution, Castillo said he would send a bill to parliament with a view to organizing a referendum on replacing it.

Castillo’s Free Peru party does not enjoy a majority in a fragmented congress, holding 37 of the 130 seats. Fujimori’s Popular Force party has 24.

Castillo was declared the victor on July 19 for a five-year term — more than six weeks after a runoff race against Fujimori, whose allegations of voter fraud then had to be reviewed by an electoral jury.

Wednesday’s swearing-in was attended by Spanish King Felipe VI, five Latin American leaders, former Bolivian president Evo Morales and the United States education secretary, among other guests.

Some 10,000 police officers were deployed in the capital Lima, and hundreds of Castillo voters came out waving banners in a show of support.

– ‘New deal’ with investors –
“This is the first time this country will be governed by a peasant,” Castillo told guests at his inauguration, sporting his trademark, traditional white sombrero and a typical black Andean suit.

He also sought to calm fears among investors, the business community and backers of Fujimori, who had sought to portray him as a communist.

“During the election campaign it was said that we are going to expropriate (assets). It is totally false. We want the economy to have order,” the new president said, adding, however, that he would be looking for a “new deal with private investors.”

Castillo is Peru’s first president in decades with no ties to the country’s political or economic elite.

He has promised reform to ensure there are “no more poor people in a rich country,” but has softened his initial campaign talk of nationalization.

He is a devout Catholic opposed to gay marriage and abortion.

Peru has been hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic. With nearly 200,000 deaths among its 32 million population, it has the world’s highest reported mortality rate.

An extended pandemic lockdown in 2020 is blamed for the loss of millions of jobs and dumping the country into recession. GDP dropped more than 11 percent.

As his chief economic adviser, Castillo has appointed World Bank economist Pedro Francke, seen as a moderating influence on his boss.

Francke vowed, in a recent interview with AFP, that “we will not expropriate, we will not nationalize, we will not impose generalized price controls, we will not make any exchange control that prevents you from buying and selling dollars or taking dollars out of the country.”

– President of all Peruvians –
It is widely hoped Castillo will bring an end to years of political upheaval in Peru.

A series of corruption scandals culminated in three different presidents in office in a single week last November.

Seven of the country’s last 10 leaders have either been convicted or are under investigation for graft, and now that she has lost, Fujimori faces an imminent corruption trial for allegedly taking illicit campaign funding for two previous presidential bids.

The election campaign has also been deeply polarizing, with often vehement public support on both sides of the political spectrum for the final two contenders.

“Castillo must rapidly position himself as a president of all Peruvians and not as a president of half of Peruvians,” political analyst Jessica Smith told AFP.

On Monday, Castillo received congratulations in a call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who “reinforced our shared commitment to promoting inclusive economic prosperity.”

Castillo, who has vowed to renounce his presidential salary, said Wednesday he would also not govern from the official presidential residence, Pizarro Palace, which he suggested should be turned into a museum.

“I believe we have to break with the colonial symbols,” he said, adding he would return to his schoolteacher’s job at the end of his term.

Three days of ceremonies will culminate in a military parade in Lima on Friday to mark the swearing in.

Pedro Castillo, Peru’s ‘First Poor President’

Leftist school teacher Pedro Castillo speaks to supporters from the balcony of the Peru Libre party headquarters in Lima, following the official proclamation of him as Peru’s president-elect on July 19, 2021. – Leftist school teacher Pedro Castillo was proclaimed Peru’s president-elect Monday, six weeks after a polarizing vote of which the results were delayed by claims of electoral fraud from his right-wing rival, Keiko Fujimori. (Photo by Gian MASKO / AFP)

 

 

Rural school teacher Pedro Castillo on Monday was declared Peru’s president-elect, making him the country’s first leader with no ties to the elites that have governed the Andean country for decades.

The 51-year-old far-left trade unionist was largely unknown until he led a national strike four years ago that forced the then-government to agree to pay rise demands.

He was born to peasants in the tiny village of Puna in the historic Cajamarca region where he has worked as a teacher for 24 years.

He grew up helping his parents with farm work, and as a child, he walked several kilometers to school.

Today, he is rarely without the trademark white, wide-brimmed hat of his beloved Cajamarca, where the last Inca emperor Atahualpa was assassinated on the main square in 1533 by Spanish conquistadores.

Castillo likes to don a poncho and shoes made of recycled tires, and traveled on horseback for much of his presidential campaign as he vocalized the frustration of struggling Peruvians and cast himself as a man of the people.

“No more poor people in a rich country,” he said as he campaigned for the Peru Libre (Free Peru) party.

He has said he would renounce his presidential salary and continue living on his teacher earnings, and described himself as “a man of work, a man of faith, a man of hope.”

Castillo, said analyst Hugo Otero, is “the first poor president of Peru.”

– Surprise victory –
In April, Castillo surprised many by taking the lead in the race to become Peru’s fifth president in three years, edging out 17 other candidates.

He then faced off against rightwing candidate Keiko Fujimori in the runoff, promising radical change to improve the lot of Peruvians contending with a recession worsened by the pandemic, rising unemployment and poverty.

One thing unlikely to change under a Castillo presidency is the Peruvian state’s socially conservative character: he is Catholic and vehemently opposed to gay marriage, elective abortion and euthanasia.

He frequently quotes from the Bible to drive home his points, and at his two-story brick home in the hamlet of Chugur in Cajamarca hangs a picture of Jesus surrounded by sheep and a caption, in English, “Jehovah is my shepherd.”

– Respect for private property –
Castillo has targeted creating a million jobs in a year, and said Peru’s mining and hydrocarbon riches “must be nationalized.”

Peru is a large producer of copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc, and mining brings in 10 percent of national GDP and a fifth of company taxes.

He has promised public investment to reactivate the economy through infrastructure projects, public procurement from small businesses, and to “curb imports that affect the national industry and peasantry.”

But he has also sought to dispel fears that “we are going to take your wine farm, that we are going to take your house, your property.”

Among his more controversial campaign promises, Castillo has vowed to expel illegal foreigners who commit crimes in Peru, giving them “72 hours… to leave the country.”

The comment was perceived as a warning to undocumented Venezuelan migrants who have arrived in their hundreds of thousands since 2017.

Free Peru is one of few left-wing Peruvian parties to defend the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose 2018 re-election is not recognized by dozens of countries.

To combat crime, Castillo has proposed withdrawing Peru from the American Convention on Human Rights, or San Jose pact, to allow it to reintroduce the death penalty.

He has also mooted replacing Peru’s free-market-friendly constitution — a relic of his rival’s father, ex-president Alberto Fujimori, serving jail time for corruption and crimes against humanity.

– A ‘humble man’ –
Castillo burst onto the national scene four years ago when he led thousands of teachers on a near 80-day strike to demand a pay rise.

It left 3.5 million public school pupils without classes to attend, and compelled then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who initially refused to negotiate, to relent.

In a bid to delegitimize the protest, then-interior minister Carlos Basombrio claimed its leaders were linked to Movadef, the political wing of the defeated Shining Path Maoist guerrilla group dubbed a “terrorist” organization by Lima.

Castillo, who had participated in armed “peasant patrols” or ronderos that resisted Shining Path incursions at the height of Peru’s internal conflict from 1980 to 2000, vehemently rejected these allegations.

Today, his home is guarded by ronderos brandishing canes and leather whips.

Next to his house, Castillo has a one-hectare farm where he grows corn and sweet potatoes and raises chickens and cows.

“We are proud that my brother has made it this far, being a humble man,” his younger sister, Amelia, told AFP.

Copa America: Diaz Stunner Downs Peru To Give Colombia 3rd Place

Colombia’s Luis Diaz celebrates after scoring the team’s third goal against Peru during their Conmebol 2021 Copa America football tournament third-place match at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 9, 2021. – Colombia won the match 3-2. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP)

 

 

Luis Diaz scored a sensational winner with virtually the last kick of the match as Colombia beat Peru 3-2 in Brasilia on Friday to finish third in the Copa America.

The goal was the 24-year-old Porto forward’s second of the match and came just 10 minutes after Gianluca Lapadula looked to have sent the game into a penalty shoot-out.

It was a thrilling encounter that ebbed and flowed, with Yoshimar Yotun giving Peru a first half lead before Colombia captain Juan Cuadrado equalized early in the second period.

 

Colombia’s team poses on the podium with their medals and trophy after defeating Peru 3-2 in their Conmebol 2021 Copa America football tournament third-place match at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 9, 2021. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP)

 

“We’re happy, it was important to finish by winning,” said Cuadrado, whose side lost their semi-final on penalties to Lionel Messi’s Argentina, who play Neymar’s Brazil in Saturday’s final.

“I’m happy with how we reacted (to going behind) and how we went after the result.”

Colombia had the better start and piled on early pressure but Peru held firm despite the ball often pinging around in their box.

And Peru even had the first clear chance on 28 minutes when Christian Cueva’s clever pass found Lapadula, but under pressure from a defender he fired narrowly wide from just inside the box.

 

Colombia’s Luis Diaz (L) celebrates after scoring the team’s thrid goal against Peru during their Conmebol 2021 Copa America football tournament third-place match at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 9, 2021. – Colombia won the match 3-2. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP)

 

Diaz had a chance for Colombia but fired straight at goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

On 40 minutes Sergio Pena left Colombia’s centre back Oscar Murillo on the floor with a clever turn, rounded goalkeeper Camilo Vargas but blazed well over the bar from a tight angle.

Peru got the lead they deserved just before the break as Cueva’s precise pass and Lapadula’s clever run took out four defenders to set up Yotun for an emphatic finish.

Colombia were back level just four minutes after the break as Cuadrado fired a free-kick through a disintegrating wall and past Gallese at his near post.

Alexander Callens had given away the free-kick on the edge of the box with a clumsy challenge and compounded his error by jumping away from his fellow members of the wall to create the gap that Cuadrado exploited.

Colombia’s tails were up and Cuadrado’s cross picked out man-of-the-match Diaz whose acrobatic overhead kick was parried over by Gallese.

The game opened up and the dangerous Lapadula cut inside a defender on the right before firing in a left-foot shot that clipped the bar as it went over.

It was end-to-end stuff with the goalkeepers playing a role in launching long-range attacks.

Gallese picked out Cueva to run at goal only for a Wilmar Barrios bodycheck to stop him in his tracks.

 

Colombia’s Luis Diaz (covered) celebrates with teammates after scoring the team’s thrid goal against Peru during their Conmebol 2021 Copa America football tournament third-place match at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 9, 2021. – Colombia won the match 3-2. (Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP)

 

But then Vargas launched a long ball up field for Diaz to scamper away and beat Gallese with a rasping finish on 66 minutes.

Lapadula looked to have sent the match to penalties eight minutes from time when he rose almost unopposed to head home a Raziel Garcia corner from six yards out.

But Diaz had the last word with a stunning strike from 25 yards that Gallese could only get his fingertips to as it rifled into the top corner.

Peru’s Ex-President Vizcarra Banned From Holding Public Office

(FILES)  The Peruvian Congress debates on April 16, 2021 a motion to disable former president Martin Vizcarra from public positions for ten years due to his alleged irregular inoculation against COVID-19. (Photo by Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

 

Peru’s Congress on Friday voted to ban former president Martin Vizcarra, implicated in a scandal over Covid-19 vaccinations, from holding public office for 10 years.

The president has been accused of being part of a group of 470 people who were secretly vaccinated against the coronavirus before the official start of the country’s immunization campaign.

Vizcarra says he was taking part in a clinical trial.

The decision by Congress to bar him from office was adopted during a virtual session lasting five hours and was passed by 86 votes with no votes against and no abstentions.

Vizcarra will not be able to occupy the deputy seat he won in legislative elections held last Sunday at the same time as the first round of a presidential election.

He became president in 2018 and was impeached in November 2020 by Congress on charges of corruption, which he denies.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 10, 2020, former Peruvian President Martín 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 during a second political trial against him in less than two months. (Photo by Luka GONZALES / AFP)

 

Before the opening of the Congress session on Friday, he said the proceeds initiated against him held no validity.

“Congress is committing an abuse of authority by continuing its session without allowing me to exercise my right to defend myself… Congress is not above the law and the constitution,” the former president wrote on Twitter.

He said he was determined to fight the decision.

“We have no doubt that this situation will be reversed. This Congress is delegitimized. We will appeal to national and international bodies,” he told reporters outside his home in Lima.

Congress has also sanctioned two former ministers accused of having been improperly vaccinated.

 

Demonstrators, supporters of Peruvian ousted President Martin Vizcarra use shields as they take part in a protest against the government of interim president Manuel Merino in Lima on November 14, 2020.  (Photo by Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

Vizcarra remains the subject of another investigation into accusations of corruption dating back to his time as governor of the region of Moquegua, in southern Peru, from 2011 to 2014.

Congress dismissed him in November 2020 on the basis of these allegations, a move that sparked violent demonstrations during which two people were killed and a hundred injured.

Peru Temporarily Suspends Clinical Trials Of Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine

FILES) In this file photo taken on December 8, 2020, a member of staff draws the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine out of a phial at the Southmead Hospital, Briston. The US Food and Drug Administration on December 11, 2020, granted the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine an emergency use authorization, paving the way for its imminent rollout across the country.
Graeme Robertson / AFP / POOL

 

Peru has temporarily suspended clinical trials of a Covid vaccine made by Chinese drug giant Sinopharm after detecting neurological problems in one of its test volunteers.

The National Institute of Health said Friday that it had decided to interrupt the trial after a volunteer had difficulty moving their arms, according to local media.

“Several days ago we signaled, as we are required, to the regulatory authorities that one of our participants (in trials) presented neurological symptoms which could correspond to a condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome,” said chief researcher German Malaga in comments to the press.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare and non-contagious disorder that affects the movement of the arms and legs. Peru declared a temporary health emergency in five regions in June last year following multiple cases.

In the 1970s a campaign to innoculate Americans against a supposedly devastating strain of swine flu ground to a halt after some 450 of those vaccinated developed the syndrome, which can also cause paralysis.

Peru’s clinical trials for the Sinopharm vaccine were due to conclude this week, after testing around 12,000 people.

If they are successful — which won’t be known until mid-2021 — the Peruvian government was expected to buy up to 20 million doses to inoculate two-thirds of its population.

60,000 across the globe have already taken the Sinopharm vaccine, including volunteers in Argentina, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

Peru has one of the world’s highest per capita death rates from the virus, which Cas of Friday had caused 36,499 deaths and 979,111 infections.

The pandemic has hit the South American country’s economy hard, with GDP plunging more than 30 percent in the second quarter.

-AFP

Peru Gets New President, The Third In One Week

Handout photo released by the Peruvian Congress of Francisco Sagasti, 76, Peruvian engineer, academic, and author, congressman and spokesman for the conservative Morado (Purple) Party, in picture taken on September 11, 2020. Peruvian Congress / AFP

 

Peru’s Congress on Monday chose a 76-year-old former World Bank official as the South American country’s new president, the third in a week.

Francisco Sagasti was elected as lawmakers met to try to find a way out of a political crisis, sparked by the impeachment of one popular president and the resignation of his controversial successor amid protests which killed two people.

Sagasti, a centrist, will serve as interim president until the end of July 2021, completing the mandate of Martin Vizcarra, who was impeached by Congress last Monday.

His successor, former Congress speaker Manuel Merino, resigned on Sunday after days of street protests during which two demonstrators were killed.

Congress was meeting for a second time to agree a president and Sagasti secured the minimum 60 votes required.

A first attempt by the legislature to agree on a president failed on Sunday, when leftist lawmaker Rocio Silva Santisteban, won just 42 votes.

AFP

Peru President Merino Resigns Following Street Protests

In this file picture taken on November 10, 2020 the head of the Peruvian Congress, Manuel Merino (R), waves after being sworn in as interim president in Lima, a day after the Congress voted to impeach and oust President Martin Vizcarra over corruption allegations. Cesar Von BANCELS / AFP

 

Peru’s President Manuel Merino resigned Sunday, just five days after taking office, sparking celebrations in the capital Lima following street protests against him and the ousting of his popular predecessor.

“I want to let the whole country know that I’m resigning,” Merino said in a televised address, a day after a police crackdown on protesters left at least two people dead.

READ ALSO: Peru President Faces Calls To Resign After Three Protesters Killed

Merino, 59, resigned shortly after a crisis session of Congress called on him to quit power before 6:00 pm (2300 GMT) or face censure.

Congress is expected to appoint a new president — the South American country’s third in a week — in a new session called for 6:00 pm.

Thousands have taken to the streets in days of protests against Merino following the ouster of his predecessor Martin Vizcarra, who was impeached on corruption allegations on Monday.

Congress’ ultimatum came after the health ministry said two protesters were killed on Saturday during a massive and peaceful march in Lima, which was repressed by police firing shotgun pellets and tear gas.

File photo: Demonstrators hold a protest against the new government of interim President Manuel Merino, following the impeachment and removal of former Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra, at the San Martin square in Lima on November 12, 2020, ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP

 

Merino said that in order to avoid a “power vacuum” the 18 ministers he swore in on Thursday would temporarily remain in their posts, though almost all had resigned in the wake of Saturday’s deadly protest.

The resignation was greeted by noisy celebrations in Lima, with demonstrators taking to the streets sounding horns and banging pots.

AFP

Peru President Faces Calls To Resign After Three Protesters Killed

Demonstrators, supporters of Peruvian ousted President Martin Vizcarra, holding a Peruvian flag, clash with riot police during a protest against the government of interim president Manuel Merino in Lima on November 14, 2020. PHOTO: ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP

 

The head of Peru’s Congress has called for the “immediate resignation” of interim president Manuel Merino after a violent crackdown on protests against his new government left at least three dead and more than 60 injured.

Thousands have taken to the streets in days of protests against Merino following the ouster of his popular predecessor Martin Vizcarra, who was impeached on corruption allegations on Monday.

“I ask Mr. Merino to evaluate his immediate resignation,” Congress head Luis Valdez said in a statement on Saturday night.

Lawmakers will meet in an emergency session on Sunday to discuss Merino’s resignation, a statement released later on the Congress Twitter account said.

The ultimatum came after news of the death of three protesters during a massive and peaceful march in Lima, which was violently repressed by police firing shotgun pellets and tear gas.

Lima mayor Jorge Munoz, from the same center-right Popular Action party as Merino, also demanded the resignation of the president.

“I just found out about the third death” in the protests, said the Archbishop of Lima, Carlos Castillo, deploring the police crackdown in a statement to state television.

Police reported two deaths, while the National Human Rights Coordinator indicated it was investigating whether there were four.

The Ombudsman’s Office said the first fatality, a 25-year-old man, was killed by pellet shots to the head and face. At least 63 protesters were injured, the health ministry said.

The police tactics have been criticized by the UN and rights organizations such as Amnesty International since the protests began on Tuesday.

 

– Ministers resign –

Seven of the 18 ministers in Merino’s cabinet announced their resignation Saturday night after the police crackdown, according to local media.

The political crisis appeared to be heading towards the resignation of Merino, whose whereabouts were unknown early Sunday.

“I’m calling him and I can’t get through, I have no idea if he has resigned. I’m not a fortune teller,” Prime Minister Antero Flores Araoz, the government’s number two, told RPP radio.

Lima’s international airport said it was closed due to the night curfew.

Merino has remained silent since the crackdown on Saturday and the call for his resignation.

At around 2:00 am (0700 GMT) Sunday, the government released a photo of Merino meeting with his cabinet, but doubts arose as to when it was taken because it showed the health minister who had resigned hours earlier.

 

– Tear gas –

Thousands took to the streets on Saturday in opposition to Merino, the former Congress speaker who assumed office on Tuesday as Peru’s third president in four years.

The mostly young protesters gathered in various cities to oppose what they call a parliamentary coup against ousted president Vizcarra.

The largest march in Lima attracted thousands of people, with police again using tear gas fired from helicopters to disperse protesters who were threatening to march towards the Congress building.

They carried signs reading “Merino, you are not my president” and “Merino impostor” while chanting.

The municipal authorities in Lima turned off the public lighting in Plaza San Martin on the crowd gathered there.

The plaza has been the center of protests in the capital.

A group of protesters approached the area around Merino’s home, east of Lima, banging pots and drums.

Archbishop of Trujillo Miguel Cabrejos urged the government to engage in dialogue and respect the right to protest.

“It is essential to listen and attend to the cries and the clamor of the population to regain confidence, tranquility and social peace,” he said in a statement.

When he took office on Tuesday, Merino said he would respect the calendar for the next general elections, scheduled for April 11, 2021, and would leave power on July 28, 2021, the day when Vizcarra’s mandate was to end.

Vizcarra had broad popular support since succeeding Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the former Wall Street banker who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment over corruption allegations in 2018.

Congress impeached and dismissed Vizcarra on Monday over allegations he took kickbacks from developers when he was governor of the Moquegua region in 2014, charges he denies.

AFP

Court Imposes Travel Ban On Ousted Peru President Amid Protests

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 09, 2020 the then Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra gives a farewell statement to the press before leaving the presidential Palace in Lima, following his impeachment by an overwhelming majority Congress vote.  AFP

 

A Peruvian judge on Friday banned ousted president Martin Vizcarra from leaving the country days after his dismissal by Congress as the nation’s political crisis spilt over into street clashes between protesters and police.

The announcement came after thousands of people took to the streets in the capital Lima and cities across Peru late Thursday to protest Vizcarra’s impeachment over corruption allegations.

At least 14 protesters were wounded in clashes with police, the National Human Rights Coordinator said.

Judge Maria Alvarez said she was imposing an 18-month travel ban on Vizcarra at the request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, investigating allegations that the 57-year-old received more than $600,000 in kickbacks from developers while a regional governor.

“We have said that we will stay,” Vizcarra assured journalists Friday, once again rejecting the charges against him and questioning the legality of his removal.

“We have the truth and the support that backs us up,” he said.

Congress voted Monday to impeach him, while Congress Speaker Manuel Merino assumed office as Peru’s third president in four years.

Tense protests that began Tuesday continued into Friday, when hundreds of young people marched to the residence of Prime Minister Antero Flores-Araoz in Lima after the 78-year-old conservative challenged them to come to his house because he did not understand their demands.

With signs saying “Merino is not my president” and “Rats out of Congress!” they marched dozens of blocks to the house, where they were stopped by a police barricade.

In the capital Lima late Thursday, police used tear gas and pellets to disperse a group trying to reach the Congress building while protesters threw sticks and stones at the officers.

Demonstrators confront riot police during a protest against the new government of interim President Manuel Merino, following the impeachment and removal of former Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra, at the San Martin square in Lima on November 12, 2020.   AFP

 

Those wounded in the clashes included two young men hit “by firearms,” said Jorge Amoros, a doctor at Almenara hospital in Lima where both are hospitalized.

An AFP photographer was struck by pellets in his arm and leg during the march in Plaza San Martin.

 ‘Coup’ 

The South America office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on authorities to guarantee the right of Peruvians to protest, saying it had received “disturbing information” about police behaviour.

The Ombudsman’s Office demanded security forces “immediately cease the use of tear gas and pellets against citizens who exercise their right to demonstrate.”

Vizcarra said protests must be allowed and called on the people to express themselves peacefully.

Demonstrators hold a protest against the new government of interim President Manuel Merino, following the impeachment and removal of former Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra, at the San Martin square in Lima on November 12, 2020.   AFP

 

“We also appeal to the national police to respect the demonstrators,” he said.

Interim president Merino urged calm.

“We are not going to put in place a brutal change,” he said, after installing his government with a conservative majority.

When he took office on Tuesday, Merino said he would respect the calendar for the next general elections, scheduled for April 11, 2021 and would leave power on July 28, 2021, the day when Vizcarra’s mandate was to end.

Clashes also took place on Tuesday, after Merino was sworn in.

Vizcarra had broad popular support since succeeding Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the former Wall Street banker who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment over corruption allegations in 2018.

Some lawmakers had questioned the wisdom of removing Vizcarra in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and a crippling recession, with the financial markets nervous about whether the new government will maintain existing economic policies.

“In all the cities of Peru, people are rising up because they consider that this has been a coup,” protester Luis Bardales, 34, told AFP in Lima.

“We do not agree with parliament. It was not necessary” to dismiss Vizcarra, said protester Irene Aguilar, marching with her daughter.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Peru hard, with GDP plunging more than 30 per cent in the second quarter.

The South American country has the world’s highest per capita death rate from the virus, which has caused nearly 35,000 deaths and more than 930,000 infections.

AFP

Peru’s President Vizcarra Ousted In Congress Impeachment Vote

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra gives a farewell statement to the press before leaving the presidential Palace in Lima, following his impeachment by an overwhelming majority Congress vote on November 9, 2020, during a second political trial against him in less than two months,
Luka GONZALES / AFP

 

Peru’s Congress voted 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’s 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.

“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, will be sworn in at a special session of Congress on Tuesday, becoming Peru’s third president since 2016, reflecting the institutional fragility which has characterized the South American country since independence from Spain in 1821.

Constitutionally, succession falls to Merino because Vizcarra’s vice-president, Mercedes Araoz, resigned a year ago in the wake of a separate political crisis.

– Vehement defense –

Speaking in his defense at the start of the impeachment trial earlier Monday, the 57-year-old president rounded on his critics, vehemently denying that he had ever accepted bribes.

“I emphatically and categorically reject these accusations,” Vizcarra told lawmakers ahead of the vote over charges that he accepted $620,000 in bribes in 2014.

Several businessmen claim Vizcarra received kickbacks in exchange for public works contracts while he was governor of the southern department of Moquegua.

Vizcarra told lawmakers on Monday that the two contracts in question were assigned by a UN agency and not by his administration in Moquegua.

Prosecutors have been investigating the claims since 2018, but they only gained political traction because of press reports, a fact highlighted by Vizcarra in his defense.

Neither the public prosecutor’s office nor the court system had levelled charges against him, he said.

He argued that no fewer than 68 of the members of the 130-seat Congress seeking his impeachment themselves faced ongoing legal processes without being removed from office.

Last month, the Attorney General’s office announced it would investigate the allegations against Vizcarra when his term — and the immunity afforded by his office — ended in April, but Vizcarra’s opponents in Congress decided not to wait.

The impeachment removes a president who has won public support at a time when Peru is seeking to emerge from an acute economic crisis due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the country hard.

The South American country has the world’s highest per capita death rate from the disease, which has seen nearly 35,000 deaths and more than 920,000 cases.

– Public backing –

Vizcarra has won popular backing over pledges to root out entrenched corruption in Peruvian politics since assuming power in 2018, though he has been at loggerheads with opponents in Congress, where he lacked a party of his own, as well as a solid majority.

Support for the president has been strong in opinion polls and on social networks, and pot-banging protesters took to the streets around the Congress building in the immediate aftermath of Monday night’s vote.

Police clashed with pro-Vizcarra demonstrators a few blocks from the building. Some waved signs accusing the Congress of a “coup.”

Vizcarra received similar support when he survived a previous impeachment vote in September.

Eight out of 10 Peruvians wanted him to continue until the end of his mandate in July 2021, according to an Ipsos poll.

Business leaders called on Congress to show unity in order to face the economic and health crisis, while influential Catholic leader Cardinal Pedro Barreto said removing the president now would be “catastrophic” for the country.

The previous vote centered on allegations that he directed aides to lie to investigators in a separate, relatively minor, case.

His opponents in Congress failed to garner enough votes to convict him of “moral incapacity.”

Peru has been politically unstable in recent years, with its four previous presidents implicated in Latin America’s sprawling Odebrecht corruption scandal.

Vizcarra succeeded Kuczynski in March 2018 after he resigned ahead of an impeachment vote brought after he became embroiled in the giant scandal.

-AFP

Peru Seeks 6,000 Volunteers For China Vaccine Trial

File photo: People await to receive medical attention, outside the emergency area at Alberto Sabogal Hospital in Lima, on May 27, 2020.. (Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

 

Peru on Wednesday began registering volunteers for clinical trials of a Chinese vaccine against the coronavirus.

Six thousand volunteers, who must be aged between 18 and 75 and not have contracted the virus, will be recruited by Cayetano Heredia and San Marcos universities via a dedicated website.

“The universities will select 3,000 volunteers each,” San Marcos rector Orestes Cachay told reporters.

The vaccine, being developed by Chinese company Sinopharm, will be administered by injection.

According to Peruvian researchers in charge of the clinical trials, two strains of the virus — the Wuhan strain and Beijing strain — and a placebo will be randomly given to volunteers.

“A technical team from China will arrive in the coming days, totalling 38 people, to implement the operational part of the project,” Cachay told TV channel N.

The trial is expected to last until December

President Martin Vizcarra announced last week the country would participate in clinical trials of vaccines being developed in China, Britain, the United States and Germany.

Peru, with a population of 33 million, has the third-highest number of deaths from the pandemic in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Per capita, it has the region’s highest death rate, with 843.5 deaths per million inhabitants.

More than 28,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the country, which has registered more than 600,000 infections so far.

AFP