Protests in Peru improve because the interim president requires calm

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© Reuters. Police officers keep their shields covered in paint during the protests in Lima following the impeachment of President Martin Vizcarra

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From Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian interim president Manuel Merino called for calm as he swore in his new cabinet on Thursday amid protests that have escalated across the country since the sudden fall of former leader Martin Vizcarra.

Merino, whose cabinet was mostly technocrats, accused some critics slated for the 2021 elections of inciting protests that had broken out in Lima and other cities, and urged Peruvians to keep the peace up.

“We respect those who have a dissenting opinion, but we demand calm and responsibility so that any political expression is given within the framework of calm and non-violence,” Merino said in a speech after the swearing-in of his 18-member cabinet officials.

Merino took office Tuesday after the Andean nation’s broken Congress voted to oust Vizcarra on bribery charges. The political shake comes as Peru, hit by the coronavirus pandemic, prepares for the worst economic contraction in a century.

Merino named Jose Arista, a former Secretary of Agriculture and Deputy Treasury Secretary, as its key economic portfolio. Carlos Herrera was appointed to the powerful Ministry of Energy and Mining after serving twice.

“We will not cause traumatic changes, the state must continue to function and respect the professional and technical work in all areas,” said Merino.

For days, crowds have been gathering in the streets to protest against the vote in Congress. Dozens of demonstrators were arrested after clashes with police officers who intermittently used tear gas, a cause of concern among some human rights organizations.

On Thursday evening, thousands took to the streets in Lima, beating pots and carrying banners to protest against the new government.

“Enough of the corruption, that’s why I’m here with my pot and screaming,” said teacher Rosario Mendoza as he protested in the capital. “Neither Congress nor the president you appointed represent me.”

The Organization of American States (OAS) on Wednesday also expressed concern about the “new political crisis in Peru” and urged the country’s Constitutional Court to weigh up.

Vizcarra, who arrived at a prosecutor’s office investigating him, said protests reflected people’s dissatisfaction with the situation. He also criticized the appointment of the conservative politician Antero Flores-Araoz.

“It’s like going back to the past, back to traditional politics,” he said. “The people gave their answer to Mr. Merino.”

Political turmoil shook markets as Peru’s solar currency fell 0.5% to an 18-year low on Thursday.

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