Peruvians protesting against the abrupt removal of President Martin Vizcarra clashed on the streets of Lima on Thursday night with riot police, who fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.
The clashes, and other more peaceful protests in the capital and other cities, are piling pressure on a fragmented Congress and the new government of Manuel Merino.
Merino, a member of the centre-right Popular Action party who had been Congress head, swore in his new cabinet on Thursday and called for calm.
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“All of Peru is fired up, we’re all very angry,” said Jose Vega, a protester in Lima, where some carried banners comparing Merino to the coronavirus pandemic and saying he did not represent them.
“They treat us poorly. We’ve only come to protest against injustice … We are all feeling pain. So, I’m saying to everyone, let’s not give up.”
Vizcarra oversaw an anti-graft campaign that led to frequent clashes with Congress in a country that has a history of political upheaval and corruption.
The crisis precipitated by his departure has rattled the world’s second biggest copper producer and seen its sol currency hit 18-year lows.
International human rights groups have expressed concern about the use of force by police against protesters and the Organization of American States has called for Peru’s Constitutional Court to give clarity to the situation.
“We’re in the streets spontaneously and peacefully defending Peruvian democracy from an abuse by Congress,” said Gino Costa, a lawmaker from the progressive Morado Party who joined Thursday’s protests.