Peruvians watched in hope as the nation's third president in just over a week was sworn in to office Tuesday, promising to restore trust in government after the worst constitutional crisis in two decades. Francisco Sagasti donned the presidential sash and in his first words to the nation paid homage to two young men who died during protests, per the AP. In Lima, many were cautiously optimistic the elder statesman could steer the nation back to stability. But Sagasti has a steep road ahead in healing Peruvians' deep mistrust of government and working with Congress, which has pushed out two presidents in four years. Peru plunged into turmoil last week when Congress voted to oust popular ex-President Martin Vizcarra for "moral incapacity," accusing him of taking bribes years ago as governor. Vizcarra denies the allegations. Protesters filled the streets, decrying the move as a parliamentary coup.
Legislators swore in little-known politician Manuel Merino as the country's interim leader. But he resigned five days later after most of his Cabinet resigned and the demonstrations turned violent. An engineer by training, Sagasti by default becomes Peru's president because Merino had no vice president—making him next in line. He's a respected scholar whose works include a book titled, Democracy and Good Governance. In 1996, he was among those taken hostage by Tupac Amaru rebels at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima. With a reputation as a consensus builder, the 76-year-old centrist lawmaker spent the initial hours after being voted in as head of Congress on Monday visiting hospitals where injured protesters were recovering and promising to do everything in his power to restore trust in the government. Sagasti voted against Vizcarra's ouster—a move likely to win him at least some backing from those who took to the streets in protest. Unlike Vizcarra, he also has a party representing him in Congress.
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