Peru’s interim president has sworn in, demanding peace after deadly protests

Peruvian lawmaker Francisco Sagasti swore in as interim president on Tuesday, voted for by Congress in an effort to restore stability to a country that has seen deadly protests and the resignation of two presidents in the past week.

Sagasti, a lawmaker from the Centrist Purple Party, is expected to serve his term until July next year, with a new presidential election scheduled for April 11.

The Andean nation has been shaken since its sudden abolition in an indictment against popular leader Martin Vizcarra on November 9. The removal of Vizcarra, whose agenda against grafting had caused tensions with Congress, often sparked violent protests in which two young people died.

Vizcarra’s successor, Manuel Merino, resigned on Sunday after just five days in power.

“It is imperative to remain calm, but not to confuse this with passivity, conformity or resignation,” Sagasti said in an address to Congress after his swearing-in.

Sagasti’s appointment has really seemed to calm tensions, although there is still a deep distrust of the country’s politicians. On Monday night, hundreds of people marched in the capital Lima demanding a new constitution and “justice for the fallen.”

“I think Sagasti is someone who gives democratic guarantees, who can get a transition to a new government that will be okay,” said one protester, Paloma Carpio.

Jose Murguia, who also protested, was less convinced.

“Frankly, it’s the same rubbish. The mask has changed but everything is the same,” he said.

Sagasti, 76, an engineer and former World Bank official, has not yet been appointed to his cabinet, but has said he is open to including ministers from the Vizcarra government, who could open the door to star finance minister María Antonieta Alva.

“If they are people with experience, integrity and a desire to work, I think we would be wrong to leave them aside,” Sagasti told local TV station Canal N.

Sagasti is Peru’s fourth president in less than three years after the resignations of Vizcarra and Merino and the departure of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in 2018 due to corruption.

Peru’s solar currency reacted positively to the news and rose about 1.75% on Tuesday, the largest daily increase in seven months. The country’s sovereign bonds also rose.

Peru, world no. 2 producer of copper, has been hit hard this year by one of the world’s deadliest per capita outbreaks of COVID-19 and is expected to have its worst annual economic downturn in a century.