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Peru Selects Its Third President in a Week Amid Massive Protest

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  • Peru’s interim president Manuel Merino resigned Sunday after only five days in office.
  • Merino took on the role after Congress impeached President Martin Vizcarra over corruption allegations that are still being investigated by prosecutors.
  • Vizcarra’s impeachment led to massive protests nationwide, which sparked accusations of police brutality and repression.
  • On Saturday, during clashes with police, 94 people were injured and two were killed.
  • On Monday, Peru’s Congress has chosen Francisco Sagasti as interim-President until new elections are held in April 2021.

Peru Embroiled in Massive Protests

Peru’s Congress named Centrist politician Francisco Sagasti the country’s new interim-president on Monday, making him Peru’s third president in just one week.

The announcement followed the resignation of interim-President Manuel Merino, who stepped down Sunday after just five days in office.

Merino, formerly the presiding member of Congress, faced widespread backlash during his short-lived presidency, though the outrage has more to do with who Merino was replacing.

Merino took the position after President Martin Vizcarra was impeached on Nov. 9 over “permanent moral incapacity” stemming from corruption allegations. More specifically, Vizcarra is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands in bribes while governor over seven years ago.

At the time of the accusation, Vizcarra denied the allegations, saying they are a response to his new policies which intended to fight corruption in Peru’s government. He told reporters, “Every time you try to defeat the virus of corruption, it defends itself by attacking. When you hit powerful interests, they don’t stay calm.”

Vizcarra has long had a contentious relationship with Congress. In 2018, he took on the role of president following the resignation of President Pablo Kuczynski, who was faced his own corruption impeachment.

Just a year later, in 2019, Vizcarra fought with Congress and dissolved the body, pending new elections. In response, Congress declared Vizcarra unfit for office. The crisis was eventually settled and Vizcarra held onto the presidency.

In September 2020, Vizcarra narrowly escaped impeachment after a push by opposition members. Just a month later he faced renewed corruption allegations. The allegations stemming from his time as governor are still being investigated by prosecutors, but Congress still overwhelming voted to remove Vizcarra from office by a vote of 105 to 25.

While his first impeachment was narrowly avoided because of partisan fractures, Vizcarra proved less popular amid Congress because of his alleged mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and economy.

Peru is among the leading nations in total cases, as well as per-capita deaths from the virus.

Vizcarra continues to deny any allegations of corruption but accepted the impeachment. On the day of his resignation, he took to Twitter to thank his supporters.

Protests Erupt for Vizcarra

Support among everyday Peruvians was something Vizcarra never lacked. The centrist president had proven extremely popular, despite Congress’ consistent claims of corruption. In fact, Vizcarra’s impeachment has led to a week of constant protest throughout the country.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Lima and other major cities every day since Vizcarra left office, demanding his return.

In general, protesters labeled Congress’ moves to remove him from office an illegal coup. The protests have been largely peaceful, although police interaction with protesters turned increasingly violent as the past week progressed. There have even been accusations by Human Rights Watch and the Ombudsman of Peru of police brutality and misconduct.

Tensions culminated on Saturday when clashes between police and protesters left at least 94 wounded and two dead. By Sunday morning, eight ministers had resigned from office over the growing crisis. By Sunday afternoon, interim-President Merino resigned from office.

“I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of the victims who died during the protest, where citizens practiced their right to liberty and went out to the streets to protest,” Merino said in a speech to the nation. “All of Peru is mourning. Nothing can justify a legitimate protest which ends with the deaths of Peruvians.”

“I want to announce to all the country that I present my irrevocable resignation of the post of the Presidency of the Republic,” he continued. “I call for peace and unity for all Peruvians. I will do the best I can to guarantee the Constitutional term. Peru deserves to move forward.”

Merino also added that every member of the cabinet offered their resignation, but in order to maintain some form of stability in the executive office, he denied their request.

The news of Merino’s resignation was met with celebrations on the streets of Peru, with many hoping this opens the possibility of a Vizcarra return.

Vizcarra himself was critical of the role Congress would play in deciding another president, who according to the Associated Press, said “It can’t be that the institution that got us into this political crisis, that has for five days paralyzed Peru, with deaths, is going to give us a solution, choosing the person who they best see fit.”

It’s unclear if Sagasti’s appointment to President will quell the unrest in Peru.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (NPR) (Associated Press)

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Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Paper Apple Daily Forced To Shut Down Under Government Pressure

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Over the last week, Apple Daily has been dealing with the fallout of authorities raiding its offices, arresting its leadership, freezing most of its assets, and leaving it unable to pay employees.


End of Hong Kong Staple

Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong’s most popular papers, announced Wednesday that it would be shutting down starting Thursday.

The news is a major blow to journalism in the city, as Apple Daily was a prominent, independent news outlet that was willing to feature both pro-unification and pro-democracy editorials. It was also known for making its own headlines in its clashes with Beijing and Hong Kong authorities.

The series of events that led to its closure first began last week when over 500 police descended on Apple Daily’s offices to confiscate documents and arrest executives, as well as editors. Authorities also froze over $1,000,000 in assets.

Officials accused the paper of violating Article 28 of the controversial National Security law by advocating for foreign countries to interfere in Chinese affairs and impose sanctions on the mainland and Hong Kong governments. Authorities also arrested one of the paper’s journalists for writing pro-democracy editorials Wednesday morning.

After last week’s raid, Apple Daily said it would continue to publish papers, but following a week of struggling to pay staff and overcome the frozen assets, it was effectively forced to close its doors.

Lamenting the Loss

Around the world, governments and activists have lamented that the Chinese government managed to so quickly and effectively kill a paper and lessen the city’s journalistic landscape. Dominic Raab, the U.K.’s foreign minister, said, “The forced closure of Apple Daily by the Hong Kong authorities is a chilling blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong.”

“It is crystal clear that the powers under the National Security Law are being used as a tool to curtail freedoms and punish dissent – rather than keep public order.”

The now-exiled in London, pro-democracy activist Nathan Law wrote on Twitter, “More than 1000 workers lost their jobs. A charity operated by Apple Daily that subsidizes underprivileged patients to pay for expensive patent drugs is also closed immediately. They lost all fundings. People lost more than a news channel that dares to speak differently.”

“The govt singlehanded created this tragedy. CCP does not tolerate truth and independent journalism. They crush our civil society, our proud tradition.”

After the paper ran its last video broadcast, Marco Cheung, one of the paper’s senior video reporters said during an interview in Hong Kong on Tuesday, “Is society changing too quickly or is it us that cannot keep up? Maybe we are used to a society with free speech and we have not adjusted yet.”

“We have not yet learned how we ought to survive if we want to stay in Hong Kong as journalists,” Cheung added.

A crowd of people went outside of Apple Daily’s offices on Wednesday to send off the paper, which has continued to remain popular despite the raid and saw its readership rise over the last week.

See what others are saying: (South China Morning Post) (The New York Times) (Reuters)

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Filipino President Threatens To Jail Those Who Refuse To Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19

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The leader’s remarks come after vaccine hesitancy studies indicated that nearly a third of Filipinos wouldn’t get vaccinated for COVID-19.


“Get Vaccinated or I Will Have You Jailed,” Duterte Warns

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte threatened to enact some of the strictest COVID-19 measures in the world in a televised address Monday night.

“You choose, get vaccinated or I will have you jailed…. I’m telling you, those police jail cells are filthy and foul-smelling, police are lazy in cleaning,” Duterte warned citizens.

“You get vaccinated, otherwise I will order all the village heads to have a tally of all the people who refuse to get vaccinated,” the president added.

Duterte is known for making hyperbolic comments and Monday’s remarks have possibly proven to be no different.

Justice Minister Menardo Guevarra told reporters Tuesday morning that there are no laws compelling people to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Herminio Roque said vaccines still remain voluntary. Still, Roque noted that compulsory vaccinations were within the powers of the state if it chose to do so through legislation.

Frustration at Growing Crisis

Not all of Duterte’s stances were walked back by officials. His plans to halt in-person classes and enforce mandatory face coverings are still supported by Filipino officials and health experts. While Duterte’s comments come off as draconian, the president argues, “The first wave has really depleted the resources of [the] government. Another one would be disastrous for this country. That is why the stricter you are, the better.”

The Philippines is facing a massive health crisis and widespread vaccine hesitancy. One study from Social Weather Stations, a statistics company, indicated that while 51% of the country trusts the government’s evaluation of COVID-19 vaccines, a majority of people still wouldn’t get them. In May 2021, that same study asked Filipinos whether or not they would take a vaccine if it was approved by the FDA and given for free. A third of respondents said they were unsure, while another third flat out said they would refuse.

This hesitancy has led to low vaccination rates amid a large outbreak over the last two months that has left COVID-19 infection numbers high.

June has consistently seen roughly 7,000 new cases a day, a slight improvement from April and May, but still nearly six times as many daily infections as June 2020.

See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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Japan’s Government To Encourage 4-Day Workweek, Experts Doubt Implementation

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Most Japanese companies that offer a four-day workweek don’t pay for the extra day off, which is a major point of concern for employees who don’t want to lose out on income.


Four Days of Pay for Four Days of Work

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide finalized its annual economic policy guidelines on Friday, which included a push for a four-day workweek option.

The initiative is already facing some pushback by employers, employees, and experts in the country. Some major concerns include how a four-day workweek would be implemented. At the 8.3% of Japanese companies that currently offer an extra day off, that day off is usually unpaid, according to the Ministry of Labor. For those that use it, it’s effectively a pay cut — a major concern for many employees who don’t want to lose out on income.

That pay cut could indicate why it’s rarely used. Yahoo Japan, for instance, offers it and only 100 out of 7000 employees take the extra day off, though a company spokesperson told Kyodo News, “It has been favorably received in general, with some employees saying that it became easier to match their days off with their children’s activities.”

There are also concerns that the extra day off, and the pay cut associated with it, will lead employees to seek part-time jobs to make up for the lost income. Those second jobs could mean that employees effectively have less time off than before and could result in a decrease in productivity, countering any alleged benefits of a four-day workweek.

Despite these concerns, the government thinks offering a four-day workweek would be a net benefit for Japan. It hopes that people will use the extra day to procure other skill sets that will help them gain work in emerging technologies and markets. In general, the government wants to promote “diversified working styles.”

Experts like Yamada Hisashi, vice chairman of the Japan Research Institute, think that any move towards a four-day workweek needs to be clearly spelled out to avoid issues such as pay cuts that motivate employees to stick to five days a week. He told Kyodo News that there were also complications for managers, saying, “Let’s say, if employees take second jobs, it would be difficult for managers to know how long they work in total and to evaluate equally those who take two days off a week and those who take three.”

“From the employees’ standpoint, they would not want to see their income from their main jobs decrease.”

Mixed Implementation With Tangible Benefits

Another criticism of the plan is that the extra day off doesn’t address other societal pressures that cause work-life imbalances. Japanese employees work fewer hours than their Australian, Canadian, Italian, and American counterparts, according to the Organization for the Economic Co-Operation and Development.

However, those numbers usually fail to reflect events such as dinner and drinks with superiors late into the night as often as multiple times a week in some of the most extreme cases. While these events are technically voluntary, societal pressures and traditions dictate that subordinates need to attend or face ostracization.

A four-day workweek has some evidence providing tangible benefits for employers, but whether that means employees get paid the same or receive a pay cut differs from company to company and is one of the things experts want the government to make clear.

In Japan, Microsoft’s local subsidiary experimented with a four-day workweek in 2019 and found a 40% boost in worker productivity. On top of increased productivity, the company also saved 58% on paper, and electricity consumption went down 23%.

See what others are saying: (Kyodo News) (Japan Times) (The Mainichi)

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