Peru's Congress Chooses Francisco Sagasti as Country's Third President in a Week
Sagasti is the country's newest leader following the impeachment of Martín Vizcarra and the resignation of Manuel Merino.
On Monday, Peru chose lawmaker Francisco Sagasti as the third president of the country in a week, in hopes of ending the political turmoil that has resulted in deadly protests and the worst economic crisis in a century, all while in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 76-year-old centrist — who has worked at the World Bank and founded a Lima-based think tank that focuses on economic and social development — said he was taking on the role "for our country, our youth, and for a better future for all Peruvians."
Last week, in a 97-to-26 vote, Peru's Congress impeached President Martín Vizcarra over allegations of corruption that he denies. His removal and the subsequent appointment of Manuel Merino sparked protests around the country. Merino, who resigned Sunday in the wake of intensifying protests that left two dead, had no vice president.
Sagasti has not yet been sworn into office, but as head of Congress, he becomes the nation's chief of state by default. He is expected to take the oath of office on Tuesday. Peru currently has no president or vice president, making him next in line. "What's at stake is taking a first step toward rebuilding confidence between the people and the state," said Samuel Rotta, president of the Peruvian chapter of Transparency International.
Many in the country are hopeful Sagasti's appointment will help improve conditions in the nation and can steer the country back toward stability, since he is in a stronger position to potentially win the support of both Congress and demonstrators. He and his Purple Party bloc were among just 19 of 130 lawmakers who voted against Vizcarra's removal, which could earn him credibility among protesters who did not approve of the Merino appointment.
"Sagasti is someone who inspired confidence among a lot of people," said Jo-Marie Burt, a senior fellow with the Washington Office on Latin America. "He's an accidental president — but I wouldn't say he's someone without a plan."