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Peru Sees 3 Presidents In The Span Of A Week

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Peru is on its third president in the span of a week. The first one was impeached last week. The second one lasted just six days before he was forced to resign. That was Sunday after massive protests. And then yesterday, the legislature selected Francisco Sagasti as the country's new leader. Well, let's go to Lima, which is where we find Gustavo Gorriti. He's editor-in-chief of the independent investigative site IDL Reporters.

Mr. Gorriti, hi there. Welcome.

GUSTAVO GORRITI: Thank you very much.

KELLY: So third president in a week in Peru. We Americans thought our presidential politics were complicated. Tell us who he is. Who is Francisco Sagasti?

GORRITI: Francisco Sagasti is a 76-year-old technocrat and academic. He has a very good reputation as an honest intellectual. He's a relatively junior politician. He becomes to the Partido Morado, a political party which is very new and closely identified with liberal democratic values. He was a presidential candidate and a member of Congress.

KELLY: What are people so mad about? What are the bigger forces at work here?

GORRITI: The pandemic has hit very hard. As a result of the measures against the pandemic, we have had an unprecedented economic recession. And all of that was under the helm of former President Vizcarra, the one who was impeached. Nevertheless, his popularity level remained consistently very high because people believed that he was making every strenuous effort to try to take the country ahead of that. And they saw his impeachment as a blatant abuse of power by opportunistic politicians who just wanted to take him out in terms of the huge anti-corruption campaign that has taken place in Peru in the last years.

And that triggered massive protests. Police was especially brutal. And late last week, two young people - two students were killed. Many, many more were wounded, and some people were disappeared. Actually, there are a couple still unaccounted for.

KELLY: What does it look like? What does it feel like out and about in the streets there today?

GORRITI: People are, in a way, jubilant. There is a sense of triumph together with the sadness, of course, for the lives lost, for the damage caused and for the fact that we all - everybody knows are very hard weeks and months ahead. It's going to be a very short interim government that will end on July 28 next year. And we'll have general elections, both for presidential and Congress. And then we have to see that we don't get a second wave of COVID, which would be devastating. And then we need also to begin the economic recovery from the horrible recession that the pandemic put us through.

KELLY: That is Gustavo Gorriti. He's editor-in-chief of IDL Reporters, speaking to us from Lima, Peru.

Mr. Gorriti, thank you.

GORRITI: You're very welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: November 17, 2020 at 10:00 PM MST
A previous Web summary of this report incorrectly said the investigative journalist being interviewed was Paola Ugaz. In fact, the journalist's name is Gustavo Gorriti.