Peru interim President calls for calm as protests escalate
By Marco Aquino LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian interim President Manuel Merino called for calm as he swore his new cabinet on Thursday amid protests that have escalated around the country since the abrupt ouster of former leader Martin Vizcarra Merino, whose cabinet was filled with mostly technocrats, accused some 'candidates' planning to run in 2021 elections of inciting protests that have broken out in Lima and other cities and urged Peruvians to maintain peace.
By Marco Aquino
LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian interim President Manuel Merino called for calm as he swore his new cabinet on Thursday amid protests that have escalated around the country since the abrupt ouster of former leader Martin Vizcarra
Merino, whose cabinet was filled with mostly technocrats, accused some "candidates" planning to run in 2021 elections of inciting protests that have broken out in Lima and other cities and urged Peruvians to maintain peace.
"We respect those who have a dissenting opinion, but we call for calm and responsibility so that any political expression is given within the scope of tranquility and non-violence," Merino said in a speech after the swearing-in of his cabinet of 18 officials.
Merino assumed office on Tuesday after the Andean nation's fractured Congress voted to oust Vizcarra over bribery allegations. The political shakeup comes as Peru, pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic, is bracing for its worst economic contraction in a century.
Merino appointed Jose Arista, a former farms minister and deputy finance minister to the key economy portfolio. Carlos Herrera was appointed to the powerful energy and mining ministry after already served twice in the post.
"We are not going to produce any traumatic change, the state must continue to function and respect the professional and technical work in all areas," Merino said.
Crowds of hundreds have gathered in the streets for days to protest the Congress vote, with dozens of demonstrators detained after clashes with police who have at times used tear gas. Plans for new protests on Thursday circulated on social media.
Human rights organizations including Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have raised concerns about police using excessive force with protesters and journalists.
The Organization of American States (OAS) also expressed concern on Wednesday over the "new political crisis in Peru," urging the country's Constitutional Court to weigh in.
Vizcarra, arriving at a prosecutor's office that is investigating him, said that protests reflected people's dissatisfaction with the situation. He also criticized the appointment of conservative politician Antero Flores-Araoz.
"It's like going back to the past, to traditional politics," he said. "The people have given Mr. Merino their answer."
The political turmoil has shaken markets with Peru's sol currency dipping 0.39% on Thursday to an 18-year low.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; additional reporting by Maria Cervantes; writing by Cassandra Garrison and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Alistair Bell)
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