Nov. 14 (UPI) — Dozens of people have been injured in clashes between protesters and police over several nights of unrest in response to the ouster of President Martin Vizcarra, human rights groups and lawmakers say.
Vizcarra’s supporters have taken to the streets each night since the Congress voted to impeach him Monday.
The impeachment resolution accused him of corruption during his time as governor of Moquegua, a department in southern Peru. Though he has denied the accusations of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from companies that won contracts, Vizcarra resigned after the impeachment vote.
Under Peruvian law, his vice president, Mercedes Aráoz, should have been installed as the new vice president, but she resigned the position in 2019 — a move that was finalized in May. Instead, House Speaker Manuel Merino, a relatively unknown opposition leader, was named president.
Merino, a member of the center-right, reformist Popular Action Party, installed a new Cabinet on Thursday and called for calm. Vizcarra belongs to the center-right Peruvians for Change Party.
But some demonstrations have turned violent, with protesters throwing rocks at police and damaging businesses. Witnesses said police used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters, injuring at least 27 people, including officers and journalists, according to CNN.
Congressman Alberto de Belaúnde said a website he created for civilians to report police abuses registered more than 200 complaints in its first hour.
“The level of violation of rights against people who exercised their right to protest and freedom of expression is alarming,” told Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.
“I am outraged by a police force that has not complied with national or international human rights standards. Outraged by the government’s reaction of not knowing what people say in the streets and making invisible or doubting the evidence that citizens have shown, because that puts them in a position of greater vulnerability.”
Interior Minister Gastón Rodríguez denied reports that police used any lethal weapons against the protesters and justified the government’s reaction to the demonstrations.
“The reaction of the police occurs when there is an attack on public property or when there is a direct attack as happened yesterday,” he said.
Human Rights Watch said Thursday that Vizcarra’s removal from office poses a threat to the rule of law in Peru.
“The allegations against Vizcarra should be investigated, but the legality of his ousting is highly dubious and seems driven by legislators’ own interests in evading accountability,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at HRW. “Leaders in the Americas should closely monitor decisions by Merino and Congress. There is every reason to suspect that they will use Vizcarra’s ousting to further undermine the rule of law.”