Peru’s interim president quit Sunday amid massive protests over Congress ousting the nation’s popular leader. Manuel Merino said his swearing-in as head of state on Tuesday was legal, despite protesters’ allegations that the assembly had staged a parliamentary coup. "I, like everyone, want what’s best for our country," he said in a televised address. Merino also called for an investigation into the protests, alleging some groups of the demonstrators simply wanted to cause trouble. His predecessor, Martin Vizcarra, was impeached on corruption allegations on Monday. He has denied any wrongdoing. Luis Valdez, the current head of Congress, had urged Merino to step down earlier on Sunday. "We should put above all else the lives of the Peruvian people," said Valdez, who himself plans to resign.
Merino’s decision came after a night of unrest in which dozens of protesters were injured from blunt force, tear gas or projectiles. A network of human rights groups reported that 112 people had been hurt and the whereabouts of 41 others were unknown. Health authorities said the dead included Jack Pintado, 22, who was shot 11 times, including in the head, and Jordan Sotelo, 24, who was hit four times in the thorax near his heart.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets across several Peruvian cities as citizens vented their frustrations at the impeachment of Vizcarra. Amnesty International and local United Nations representatives have in recent days accused the police of using excessive force in their efforts to quell the unrest.
Recently deposed President Vizcarra is accused of taking 2.3 million soles ($636,000, €537,000) in bribes from a construction firm while he was governor of the Moquegua region from 2011 to 2014. Vizcarra repeated his claims of innocence prior to the impeachment vote, accusing the opposition of trying to destabilize the country. Following Merino’s decision to resign, the Congress is now set to appoint a new president on Sunday.
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