Martín Vizcarra Impeached, Manuel Merino de Lama, The New President of Peru

Peru's president is charged by Congress

The vote to oust President Martín Vizcarra follows a catastrophic coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Vizcarra said he approved the referendum, decreasing the possibility of constitutional crisis.

CARACAS, Venezuela — Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra was impeached by Congress on Monday, with the vote occurring in a destructive coronavirus pandemic and just months before presidential elections.

Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra addressing Congress Monday, before lawmakers voted to impeach him.
Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra addressing Congress Monday, before lawmakers voted to impeach him.

105 of Peru's 130 legislators backed the opposition 's motion to oust the president for suspected wrongdoing, more than the 87 votes needed for impeachment. Peru has a unicameral rule, and Monday's vote was Congress' final decision.

Mr. Vizcarra, 57, said he approved the vote in a national address late Monday night, minimizing the possibility of a constitutional crisis or drawing legal battle over presidency.

"Today, without agreeing with the decision, I will leave the presidential palace and go home," he said, flanked by his cabinet. "History and the Peruvian people will judge the choices we make."

Under Peru 's Constitution, the person in line to succeed Mr. Vizcarra as interim president is Congress president, opposition lawmaker and businessman Manuel Merino until the end of next July 's term.

The impeachment vote, which stunned a nation that expected the president to succeed, was the result of an exceedingly bitter standoff between Mr. Vizcarra, a moderate, and his Legislative critics who reject his efforts to reform the country's political and judicial structure.

Monday's vote was the second effort by lawmakers to impeach Mr. Vizcarra in two months, after a failed vote in September over an unrelated charge of obstruction.

Mr. Vizcarra 's government has described the impeachment petition as a baseless misuse of a seldom used constitutional provision to empower senators to expel a president that is physically or morally disqualified for office, but to prosecute a president for alleged misconduct.

"The only thing we can do right now is plunge the nation into greater agitation and chaos," Mr. Vizcarra said Monday before the vote in his defense address.

There will usually be a first vice president and a second vice president behind the president, but both positions are empty.

Despite growing allegations of corruption, only 20 percent of Peruvians backed Mr. Vizcarra's impeachment, according to an Ipsos poll in late October, and he also enjoyed support from Peru's Armed Forces, a conventional power arbiter.

Minutes after the vote, crowds of followers of Mr. Vizcarra started to rally outside Congress to protest what they termed a "coup," according to local broadcasters, and representatives of civil society protested voting scheduling amid a deep health crisis. Heavy police cordons surrounded the parliamentary building for unrest.

"It isn't regeneration," Lima Archbishop Carlos Castillo said of the impeachment vote. "There's just anger, envy and hostility."

The latest bid to remove Mr. Vizcarra started weeks after one of his close former allies and building executives published leaked testimonies by local media, claiming he accepted bribes from local construction firms as governor of a remote mining area in the early 2010s.

Mr. Vizcarra is accused of accepting some 2.3 million soles, or around $641,000, and will face at least 15 years' imprisonment if proven guilty, according to a lawyer who pleaded not to be called.

The president refuted the allegations, accusing politicians of exploiting his impeachment to delay April's polls.