Deep Political Crisis in Peru

Manuel Merino’s mandate as president of Peru lasted less than a week and now the South American country, one of the most affected by the Covid 19 pandemic, is in complete chaos. Merino was chosen on Tuesday after Congress ousted President Martin Vizcarra, involved in a corruption case. Vizcarra had avoided an impeachment two months ago and was unable to do anything against the alliance of several center parties which has placed him in the minority. Soon after, however, there were demonstrations in Lima and several other cities that continued throughout the week. The most violent clashes took place on Saturday evening and caused the death of two young demonstrators in their twenties.

It was the drop that broke the camel’s back; a dozen ministers fell during the night and then on Sunday afternoon Merino announced his resignation. Now the parliamentarians will have to find a new interim president, who will have the difficult task of ferrying the country until the next general elections in April 2021. It is now clear that Peru, today, is ungovernable; too many parties and too many interests at stake against the backdrop of an unprecedented health crisis and economic recession. The pandemic was fatal: for several months it was the country with the highest number of deaths (today there are over 35,000) from Covid in the world in relation to the population, health facilities have collapsed despite the strict lockdwon decided by the Vizcarra government, who did not hesitate to send the army to the streets to enforce prohibitions and curfews. Analysts predict a collapse of more than 12% of GDP this year, millions of informal workers are left with nothing, a third of businesses are at risk of closure.

The coronavirus showed the effects of decades of corruption, hospitals were left without oxygen for weeks, doctors for a long time worked without protective equipment. “The state has long since failed – explains the sociologist and former interior minister Fernando Rospigliosi – and the interminable feuds in Parliament have destroyed what little remained of the credibility of the political class. Now there is a risk of emptiness and a drift towards populism or authoritarianism “. One figure alone is enough to show the Peruvian institutional disaster; all the last six presidents, who have ruled for the past 30 years, have fallen for corruption. Three of them are under investigation, one ended up in prison, one is in exile and one, the socialist Alan Garcia, an old friend of the Italian PSI, committed suicide before ending up in prison. Politically reviving the country will be an even more difficult undertaking than leaving the pandemic behind.

Paulo Bentu

Visiting Fellow

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