Earlier this week, Francisco Sagasti was sworn as the new president of Peru. He is the 87th president in the country’s 200-year history, the fourth president in the current five-year presidential term, and the third president in a week.
The unusual chain of events that led to Sagasti’s presidency comprise one of Peru’s biggest political crises in recent history. On Monday, November 9th, Congress voted to remove President Martín Vizcarra for “moral incapacity” and appointed the president of Congress, Manuel Merino, to serve as interim president. This move incensed the Peruvian public; Vizcarra had enjoyed a public approval rating of nearly 60% even after Peru suffered one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in the world. Peruvians took to the streets, protesting Vizcarra’s removal and demanding the resignation of Merino, who was the driving force behind the impeachment proceedings. Police violence against protestors left two dead, more than forty missing, and at least ninety injured. Merino resigned five days into his tenure, and Congress named Sagasti – one of the minority of Congressmen who voted against Vizcarra’s impeachment – as interim president until the April 2021 elections.
This crisis represents the culmination of several growing tensions in Peruvian political life, including an increasingly antagonistic relationship between the executive and legislative branches, a widespread rejection of the political establishment and embrace of populism, and the enormous toll of COVID-19. But no issue is more central to this story than that of endemic corruption. Indeed, the intractable problem of corruption in Peru has been largely responsible for the current political crisis.