Peru names Francisco Sagasti as third president in a week

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Peru’s Congress has chosen legislator Francisco Sagasti as the Andean country’s caretaker president, in an attempt to defuse a sharp political crisis after angry protests and the departure of two presidents in the past week.

People waved the nation’s red-and-white flag and blared horns outside the gates of Congress on Monday as the 76-year-old Sagasti, from the centrist Morado Party, won enough votes to head Congress. This means he will assume the presidency of Peru before national elections called for April.

Sagasti will be Peru’s third president in a week, after interim leader Manuel Merino resigned on Sunday, five days after being sworn in following the impeachment of centrist Martin Vizcarra.

The removal of Vizcarra, who was popular with many Peruvians but angered legislators with his push for anti-corruption measures and attempts to curb parliamentary immunity, sparked days of protests that led to the deaths of two men.

“Today is not a day of celebration,” Sagasti said, striking a sombre tone in his first words after taking office in Congress. “We cannot go back, bring them back to life, but we can take action from Congress, from the executive, so that this does not happen again.”

Sagasti, a former World Bank official and engineer, faces a formidable challenge to bring stability to Peru, which was already hard hit by COVID-19 and heading for its worst economic contraction in a century.

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