LIMA (AP) – Francisco Sagasti was left with a clear path to become the new interim president of Peru after his appointment on Monday as leader in Parliament after the resignation of his predecessor the day before amid protests that left two dead and more than 100 injured.
The 76-year-old engineer will be the fourth president since 2016 and will succeed Manuel Merino, who resigned on Sunday after ruling for six days between demonstrations not seen for 20 years when Peruvians protested against the corruption of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000 ).
In a gesture of trying to get closer to the citizens, Sagasti left the Legislative Palace and approached within a few meters of the protesters who greeted him from a distance and honked their horns. It was a gesture that his predecessor Merino never made in his very brief government.
Shortly before, in a speech in the hemicycle he asked legislators to focus on “concrete” tasks in the remaining eight months of government. He said the protests are “a powerful wake-up call” and that youth outrage must be “accepted and prosecuted.”
Without giving details, he suggested improving the rules to prevent violence during protests. Reports from the prosecution and photographs from emergency physicians show that the police used lead pellets and glass marbles.
“The pandemic, the economic crisis, the insecurity were not enough, we had to wait for the death of two young people so that the enormity of the situation we are experiencing falls on us,” he said in reference to two twenty-somethings who protested and died in police.
Medical authorities indicated that 22-year-old Jack Bryan Pintado Sánchez and 24-year-old Jordan Inti Sotelo Camargo were killed by firearm impacts. Pintado received 10 lead pellets in the skull, face, neck, arm and thorax, while Sotelo received four shots in the thorax.
In the midst of criticism from legislators, the industrial engineer said that he offered confidence, which is “what our country is lacking at this time,” along with empathy and responsibility.
Sagasti, from the centrist Purple Party, was chosen by lawmakers from a single list agreed earlier to head Parliament. As there is no president, no vice president, and no second vice president, according to the law, the leader of Parliament becomes president.
The politician, a lover of classical music, worked at the World Bank and was an advisor to Peruvian governments. He has a Ph.D. from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
The political crisis began on November 9 when Congress indicted and removed the then president, Martín Vizcarra, a popular politician accused of corruption without conclusive evidence.
Manuel Merino, who was the leader of Parliament and orchestrated Vizcarra’s downfall, replaced him, but his government was unpopular and caused protests brutally repressed by the police, in which the two deaths occurred. After more than half of his ministers left the cabinet and the military withdrew their support, Merino resigned at noon Sunday.
From that moment, the legislators were unable to elect the new president until they reached a consensus with Sagasti at the helm.
Attorney General Zoraida Avalos announced on Monday that she is investigating Merino, her former Prime Minister Antero Flores-Aráoz, and former Interior Minister Gastón Rodríguez for intentional homicide.
The investigation will also determine whether serious or minor injuries and forced disappearance of persons were committed. “I can assure you that these deaths will not go unpunished,” Ávalos said in a communication published on the official Facebook page of the Prosecutor’s Office.
The day before, human rights groups also denounced Merino, Flores-Aráoz, Rodríguez and several police chiefs as mediate perpetrators of aggravated murder.
The National Human Rights Coordinator reported 112 injured in the demonstrations on Saturday and organizations that defend journalists added more than three dozen attacks on reporters, including those injured with pellets thrown by the police.
Human rights defenders also reported the use of tear gas near churches and hospitals. “We are documenting cases of police brutality in central Lima,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter Saturday. “Everything indicates that the repression against peaceful protesters is intensifying.”
In New York on Monday, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said he was very concerned about reports of “excessive use of force and violence” by Peruvian security forces against protesters. .
Guterres “expresses his condolences to the families of the victims and hopes that the authorities will carry out an impartial and independent investigation of these events,” Dujarric said.
The spokesperson also indicated that he hopes that all parties will work for a “quick and institutional” solution to the political crisis in Peru through “inclusive dialogue with full respect for the law.”
The political crisis was added to the economic and health crisis in a country affected by the new coronavirus. Political analysts claim that the constitutional crisis has endangered the country’s democracy.
As of Monday, the country has reported 937,011 coronavirus cases and 35,231 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Science and Systems Engineering.
The bulk of the young people who protested during the week were in their twenties, but housewives and retirees were also observed. Analysts indicated that it was the emergence of a new generation without fear, not even of being unfairly accused of being part of the Shining Path, a defunct terrorist group that caused thousands of deaths between 1980-2000.
“I think this is the most serious democratic and human rights crisis that we have seen since Fujimori,” said Alonso Gurmendi, a professor at the Universidad del Pacífico in Peru.
In April, the presidential and legislative elections will be held in Peru and Sagasti will end his term on July 28, 2021, when he hands over power to the winner of the elections. __
The Associated Press in New York journalist Claudia Torrens contributed to this report.