Peru’s President Manuel Merino has resigned on Sunday, just five days after taking office, sparking celebrations in the capital Lima following street protests against him and the ousting of his popular predecessor.
His resignation was greeted by noisy celebrations in Lima, with demonstrators taking to the streets sounding horns and banging pots.
Merino, 59, stepped down shortly after a crisis session of Congress called on him to quit power before 6:00 pm (2300 GMT) or face censure.
“I want to let the whole country know that I’m resigning,” Merino said in a televised address, a day after a police crackdown on protesters left at least two people dead”.
Congress was expected to appoint a new president — the South American country’s third in a week — in a new session on Sunday evening.
Elections are scheduled for April 2021 and Merino was scheduled to leave power in July, when Vizcarra’s mandate was to end.
Congress’ ultimatum came after the health ministry said two protesters were killed on Saturday during a massive and peaceful march in Lima, which was repressed by police firing shotgun pellets and tear gas.
Merino said that to avoid a “power vacuum” the 18 ministers he swore in on Thursday would temporarily remain in their posts, though almost all had resigned in the wake of Saturday’s crackdown on protests.
Some lawmakers questioned the wisdom of removing Vizcarra in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and a crippling recession.
The pandemic has hit Peru hard, with the politically-fragile country having the world’s highest per capita death rate with nearly 35,000 fatalities, and GDP plunging over 30 percent in the second quarter.