By AICHA EL HAMMAR CASTANO and IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News
(LIMA, Peru) — Peru’s interim president, Manuel Merino, announced in a televised address Sunday that he is stepping down just six days after his inauguration. The announcement came after protests demanding his removal turned violent.
Peruvians have taken to the streets since former Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra, who was popular among constituents, stepped down from his position last week once the country’s Congress voted to impeach him.
Merino called for peace in his speech and said he would work for a smooth transition to his successor.
The Peruvian Congress voted 105-19 to remove Vizcarra from office, contending he mismanaged the country’s coronavirus cases and accepted bribes from companies who received government contracts. Vizcarra has denied the allegations of corruption.
Since the pandemic began, Peru at one point had the world’s highest per-capita COVID-19 mortality rate. As of Sunday, there were more than 932,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 35,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The members of congress cited an article in Peru’s constitution to declare the presidency “vacant.” Merino, the head of the Congress of Peru, was appointed interim president following Vizcarra’s departure on Nov. 10.
Protesters called the situation a “parliamentary constitutional coup,” as they were shocked by Vizcarra’s departure. Thousands have taken part in the demonstrations and have clashed with the police.
Those demonstrations turned fatal this weekend.
Two protesters were killed and at least 92 were injured Saturday, a spokesperson from Peru’s Ministry of Health told ABC News. The human rights group Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH) reports more than 20 protesters are missing.
Peruvian officials did not immediately name Merino’s successor as of Sunday afternoon.
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