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Peruvian politicians remove president over alleged graft and Covid response

Martin Vizcarra says he will not fight the decision.

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Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra waves to reporters during a press conference at the presidential palace in Lima after politicians voted him out of office (Martin Mejia/AP)

Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra waves to reporters during a press conference at the presidential palace in Lima after politicians voted him out of office (Martin Mejia/AP)

Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra waves to reporters during a press conference at the presidential palace in Lima after politicians voted him out of office (Martin Mejia/AP)

Peruvian politicians have voted to remove President Martin Vizcarra from office, accusing him of taking bribes years ago and poorly handling the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The president announced he would not try to fight the decision, while analysts called the action by legislators an overt and risky power grab in a country where Mr Vizcarra is highly popular but Congress is not.

“Today I am leaving the government palace,” Mr Vizcara said. “Today I am going home.”

The president’s removal was supported by 105 legislators — far more than the 87 votes needed for the two-thirds majority required to remove Peru’s president. Many said they were casting their vote for his removal in the name of dead loved ones.

“Because of his negligence and incapacity we’ve lost thousands of compatriots,” politician Robinson Gupioc said during more than five hours of debate.

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Anti-government protesters chant against Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra before the impeachment vote (Martin Mejia/AP)

Anti-government protesters chant against Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra before the impeachment vote (Martin Mejia/AP)

Anti-government protesters chant against Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra before the impeachment vote (Martin Mejia/AP)

Coming just weeks after Mr Vizcarra easily survived another removal vote, Monday’s action could spell a new chapter of uncertainty for the country, which has the world’s highest per capita Covid-19 mortality rate and is facing a deep recession.

Thousands gathered on the streets of Peru’s capital after the vote to denounce Congress, with some chanting: “Get out coup plotters.”

The president denied any wrongdoing in a forceful speech before Congress but politicians said they did not believe him.

They also lambasted his response to the virus, pointing to rising poverty, deadly oxygen shortages and the country’s misguided use of rapid antibody tests.

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Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra talks to reporters before entering Congress (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra talks to reporters before entering Congress (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra talks to reporters before entering Congress (Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Mr Vizcarra is also accused by opposition politicians of accepting more than £480,000 in bribes in exchange for authorising two construction contracts while governor of Moquegua, a province in southern Peru with a population of around 180,000. He was governor there from 2011 to 2014.

Prosecutors are investigating the allegations but have not charged Mr Vizcarra.

Mr Vizcarra rose to the nation’s highest office in 2016 after then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned amid allegations that he had failed to disclose payments from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to his private consulting firm.

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He has identified defeating corruption as his principal mission and is one of the nation’s most popular leaders in recent history.

But he has also repeatedly faced off with Congress, where he has few allies, and Peru’s laws allow legislators to dismiss a president on the vaguely defined grounds of “moral incapacity”.

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