Peru’s new president reforms police, ousts 15 generals

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Peru’s new president Francisco Sagasti on Monday ordered police reform, changed the ruler and ousted 15 generals, in response to the previous government’s violent crackdown on protests.

“I made the decision to appoint General César Augusto Cervantes as the new police commander,” the country’s interim leader, centrist Francisco Sagasti, announced on television six days after taking power to replace the ephemeral government by Manuel Merino.

General Cervantes replaces General Orlando Velasco, who had been in charge of the police since August 7. The latter, however, had not been held responsible for the violent repression of the protests in mid-November, because he was on sick leave.

Fifteen police generals have been retired, Interior Minister Ruben Vargas told RPP radio. “We want a police force which continues to defend democracy, fundamental rights, which gives us security”, commented the Minister.

A mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Lima to obtain information on the police crackdown on protests against the previous president, Manuel Merino, which resulted in the deaths of two young protesters aged 22 and over. 24 years old, November 14 in Lima.

The use of shotguns firing shot pellets and glass balls had also left around 100 injured in the capital. Cases of sexual abuse had been reported on women detained in police stations.

Investigations are underway to establish responsibilities.

Francisco Sagasti became the new interim head of state on November 17, with the task of putting an end to the deep political crisis that is shaking this South American country and leading it to the general elections of April 2021. He is the third to fill this post in just over a week.

On November 9, MPs voted to dismiss popular president Martin Vizcarra (center-right) on suspicion of corruption when he was governor in 2014.

The leader of Parliament, the opponent Manuel Merino, had taken the reins of the country, angering thousands of demonstrators who denounced what they saw as a parliamentary “coup”.

After five days of violently repressed demonstrations, Mr. Merino, released by the political class, had finally resigned.

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