Peru’s New President Merino Faces Swelling Protests After Helping to Oust Predecessor

LIMA, Peru—Peru’s new president, Manuel Merino, is facing a backlash after helping to orchestrate the impeachment of his predecessor and angering Peruvians already battered by a devastating coronavirus outbreak and a sharp economic downturn.

From Lima’s Plaza San Martin to towns in the jungle and high Andes, Peruvians on Thursday ramped up protests against Mr. Merino, yelling “down with the usurper.”

“This is a coup d’état, it is antidemocratic,” said Lucia Cordova, a 30-year-old teacher in Lima who banged metal spoons against her bicycle during a protest that lasted into the early hours of Friday. “He’s not my president. I don’t accept him.”

Mr. Merino, Peru’s third president in less than four years, was sworn in Tuesday after congress overwhelmingly approved the impeachment of Martin Vizcarra by using an obscure constitutional clause to declare him morally unfit to hold office. With no vice president, Mr. Merino was next in line as the speaker of congress to take over as head of state.

Lawmakers said they ousted Mr. Vizcarra, even though new elections are in April, because of unproven allegations that he took bribes as a state governor from 2011 to 2014, claims Mr. Vizcarra denies. They also cited Mr. Vizcarra’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed 35,000 people and given the country the world’s second-highest per capita death rate.

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