Peru Swears In Third President in a Week Amid Violent Protests

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Peru has elected its third president in just over a week on Tuesday in a televised swearing ceremony that citizens filled with both hope and anxiety watched with scars from the country’s worst constitutional crisis in the last 20 years.

Francisco Sagasti wore the red and white presidential sash during the event and gave the people his promise of restoring their trust in the government. He also honored the two young men that lost their lives during the violent protests that began last week after Congress voted to dethrone Sagasti’s predecessor.

The new president said that while no one could bring back the two victims, the public and the government could work together to make sure that the same violence and tragedy does not happen again.

Many residents from Lima were cautiously optimistic that Sagasti would be able to stabilize the country just a week after the catastrophe. However, the elderly statesman has a challenging road ahead to bring peace back to the nation.

Many young citizens who viewed the government as self-interested and corrupted proceeded to fill the streets of the capital after the swearing ceremony. The situation remains dire as Congress is still filled with opposing parties that bicker and, for the last five years, have pushed away two presidents from their seats.

Sixty-three-year-old resident Victor Mezzarina said that he has never seen a good Peruvian president his whole life. He remained outside Congress, offering to exchange money from Sol, the Peruvian currency, to dollars. Mezzarina expressed his hopes that Sagasti’s short five-month reign before the elections would be fruitful, the San Francisco Gate reported.

Last week, Peru was engulfed by violent protests when Congress voted to oust Martin Vizcarra from his presidential seat. Demonstrators took to the streets, calling the move a parliamentary strategy. Afterward, legislators swore in Manuel Merino, a politician who also worked as a rice farmer, to be the interim president, but was removed five days later after the situation became more chaotic and most of his cabinet members resigned.

Sagasti has trained as an engineer and became the country’s chief of state the day after winning the votes to be the leader of Congress. When Merino was interim president, he had no vice president, making Sagasti next in line to be the president.

In 1996, Sagasti was among those kidnapped by Tupac Amaru rebels and held hostage inside the Japanese ambassador’s residence located in Lima. The head of the Inter-American Dialogue, Michael Shifter, said Sagasti’s background as a consensus builder makes him one of the top choices for interim president for the moment, the Associated Press reported.

After his swearing-in, Sagasti said, “It is absolutely necessary to remain calm, but do not confuse this with passivity, conformity, or resignation,” during his address to Congress.

One protester, Paloma Carpio, said Sagasti had the potential to bring democracy to the nation and begin the government’s transition towards better leadership. However, another demonstrator, Jose Murguia, said, “Quite frankly, it’s the same rubbish.” He added Sagasti is the same kind of mask that harbored the same intentions as previous leaders.

During the initial hours of his swearing-in, Sagasti visited several hospitals that treated injured protesters. He said under his guidance; the government would do all it could to restore hope and peace to the nation.

Sagasti is the fourth president of the country in less than three years, a result of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s resignation in 2018 after several allegations of corruption.

Peru’s currency, the sol, gained an increase in value after Sagasti’s swearing-in of about 1.75% on Tuesday. The rise marks the highest daily gain of the currency in seven months. The change in leadership also benefited the country’s sovereign bonds, Aljazeera reported.

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.