Correspondent in Lima
After being left without a president twice in a week, Congress on Monday elected the inengineer Francisco Sagasti, 76 years old, new interim – or transitional – president of Peru. The final vote in Congress was 97 votes in favor, 26 votes against, and no abstention. “For the political stability of the country”, “for tranquility and peace”, “for the protests to end”, “for national reconciliation …” were some of the statements that accompanied the votes in support of Sagasti. The applause marked the moment in which he mathematically passed the barrier of the necessary number of votes (62) to be elected.
The urgent vote avoided the power vacuum after the Manuel Merino resigns this Sunday, a brief interim president who lasted less than a week in office (Nov. 10-15), and controversial. His appointment, after the departure of Martín Vizcarra by a second vote of no confidence in just a few weeks, provoked long days of protests, repressed by the police. The clashes left two dead – Jack Bryan Pintado, 22 years old and Inti Sotelo, 24 years old -, a hundred injured and dozens missing. The force of the street was what determined the exit of Merino. At the same time as Sagasti’s vote, Sotelo Camargo, a hospitality student, was buried, who died in the march last Saturday in Lima. “I am going to give my life for my country, that was the last thing my son said,” his mother recalled.
The single list presented to Congress this Monday, after many comings and goings, was made up of Francisco Sagasti from the Purple Party, Mirtha Vásquez from the Frente Amplio (on the left), Luis Roel from Acción Popular and Matilde Fernández from Somos Perú.
Before voting began, the congresswoman Rocío Silva Santisteban asked for a minute of silence in tribute to the two deceased students. This same congresswoman, a day before, lost the first vote in Congress to fill the vacancy of Merino. The list chaired by Silva Santisteban, a writer, journalist and poet from the left-wing “Frente Amplio” party, did not go ahead. It did not obtain the minimum 62 votes, since it obtained only 42 supports.
Mourning and outrage
In his inauguration speech as President of Congress, Sagasti dedicated his first words to the deceased and to those injured in the protests: «Today is not a day of celebration because we have seen the death of two young people in protest. We cannot bring them back to life, but we can – from Congress and the Executive – take measures so that this does not happen again. “It is a very powerful wake-up call,” continued the industrial engineer and author of more than 20 books on democracy and governance. We had to wait for the death of two young people to motivate us to work more decisively for progress.
“In addition to the two who died, we have the injured who are waiting to recover from the violence they received for their peaceful demonstrations. In addition, we have disappeared, “said Sagasti, while adding,” when a Peruvian dies we mourn and what we are seeing in the street is indignation that we must cause through democratic paths. We must improve the legal framework so that this is not allowed again. This cry for reforms and changes is what we are seeing on the street now, “said the interim president.
“Today is not a day of celebration, because we have seen the death of two young people in protests expressing their points of view”, president of the Congress, Francisco Sagasti Hochhausler. #PlenoVirtualpic.twitter.com/Va5YhIXvTn
– Congress of Peru (@congresoperu) November 16, 2020
Sagasti is a key piece of the team of the leader of the Morado party, Julio Guzman, of recognized democratic credentials and has been part of the World Bank and promoter of a «think tank» in the nineties called «Agenda Peru». Known in Peru as “Don Quixote”, Sagasti will lead the country until July 28, when he will hand over the position to the president who will be elected in the elections next April.
With the entry of Sagasti, Peru has had four presidents in the last four years, a record for one of the most praised countries in South America for its good economic performance, which has now been hit hard by Covid-19.
While Congress was voting for a new interim president, in the constitutional Court the motion of censure against former president Martín Vizcarra was debated. Although the session was brought forward to Monday, the decision will not be made until Thursday, when it is expected that a sentence will be issued specifying what the “permanent moral incapacity” consists of.
🔴 Deliberation of the competency claim on presidential vacancy will be on Thursday, November 19. Constitutional Court maintains hearing date for Wednesday 18 👉 https://t.co/gpfLtfJqhupic.twitter.com/VKQMis6Mox
– Constitutional Court of Peru (@TC_Peru) November 16, 2020
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