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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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Israel Relaxes Abortion Restrictions in Response to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

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The reforms follow similar moves by France and Germany as leaders across the political spectrum denounce the court’s decision.


Health Minister Makes Announcement

Israel is easing access to abortion in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, Nitzan Horowitz, the country’s health minister and head of the small left-wing Meretz party, announced Monday.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s move to deny a woman the right to abortion is a dark move,” he said in the announcement, “oppressing women and returning the leader of the free and liberal world a hundred years backward.”

The new rules, approved by a majority in the parliamentary committee, grant women access to abortion pills through the universal health system. Women will be able to obtain the pills at local health centers rather than only hospitals and surgical clinics.

The new policy also removes the decades-old requirement for women to physically appear before a special committee that must grant approval to terminate a pregnancy.

While women will still need to get approval, the process will become digitized, the application form will be simplified, and the requirement to meet a social worker will become optional.

The committee will only conduct hearings in the rare case it initially denies the abortion procedure.

Israel’s 1977 abortion law stipulates four criteria for termination of pregnancy: If the woman is under 18 or over 40, if the fetus is in danger, if the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or an “illicit union,” including extramarital affairs, and if the woman’s mental or physical health is at risk.

All of the changes will take effect over the next three months.

The World Reacts

Politicians across the political spectrum from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision since it was announced Friday.

On Saturday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne expressed support for a bill proposed by parliament that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the country’s constitution.

“For all women, for human rights, we must set this gain in stone,” she wrote on Twitter. “Parliament must be able to unite overwhelmingly over this text.”

Germany scrapped a Nazi-era law prohibiting the promotion of abortion Friday, just hours before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In Israel, abortion is a far less controversial issue than it is for Americans. Around 98% of people who apply for an abortion get one, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Part of the reason for Israel’s relatively easy access to abortion is that many residents interpret Jewish law to condone, or at least not prohibit, the procedure.

In the United States, several Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Committee, Hillel International, and the Women’s Rabbinic Network have expressed opposition to the court ruling, and some Jews have protested it as a violation of their religious freedom.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC News) (The Guardian)

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Flight Deporting Refugees From U.K. to Rwanda Canceled at Last Hour

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the U.K.’s asylum policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.


Saved By The Bell

The inaugural flight in the U.K. government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda was canceled about an hour and a half before it was supposed to take off Tuesday evening.

A last-minute legal intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) halted the flight. Tuesday’s flight originally included 37 people, but after a string of legal challenges that number dwindled to just seven.

In its ruling for one of the seven passengers, a 54-year-old Iraqi man, the court said he cannot be deported until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.

Another asylum seeker, a 26-year-old Albanian man, told The Guardian he was in a “very bad mental state” and did not want to go to Rwanda, a country he knows nothing about.

“I was exploited by traffickers in Albania for six months,” he said. “They trafficked me to France. I did not know which country I was being taken to.”

A final domestic effort to block the flight in the Court of Appeals failed on Monday. The High Court will make a ruling on the asylum policy next month.

Britains Divided by Controversial Policy

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke to lawmakers after the flight was canceled, defending the asylum policy and saying preparations for the next flight will begin immediately.

“We cannot keep on spending nearly £5 million a day on accommodation including that of hotels,” she said. “We cannot accept this intolerable pressure on public services and local communities.”

“It makes us less safe as a nation because those who come here illegally do not have the regularized checks or even the regularized status, and because evil people-smuggling gangs use the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains to fund other appalling crimes that undermine the security of our country,” she continued.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Filippo Grandi, told CBC the policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.

“We believe that this is all wrong,” he said. “This is all wrong. I mean, saving people from dangerous journeys is great, is absolutely great. But is that the right way to do it? Is that the right, is that the real motivation for this deal to happen? I don’t think so. I think it’s… I don’t know what it is.”

An Iranian asylum seeker in a British detention center who was told to prepare for deportation before being granted a late reprieve was asked by ABC whether he ever thought the U.K. would send him to Africa.

“I thought in the U.K. there were human rights,” he said. “But so far I haven’t seen any evidence.”

The Conservative government’s plan was announced in April, when it said it would resettle some asylum seekers 4,000 miles away in Rwanda, where they can seek permanent refugee status, apply to settle there on other grounds, or seek asylum in a safe third country.

The scheme was meant to deter migrants from illegally smuggling themselves into the country by boat or truck.

Migrants have long made the dangerous journey from Northern France across the English Channel, with over 28,000 entering the U.K. in boats last year, up from around 8,500 the year prior. Dozens of people have died making the trek, including 27 who drowned last November when a single boat capsized.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (CNN)

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Ryanair Draws Outrage, Accusations of Racism After Making South Africans Take Test in Afrikaans

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Afrikaans, which is only spoken as a first language by around 13% of South Africa, has not been the country’s national language since apartheid came to an end in 1994.


Airline Won’t Explain Discrimination

Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has received widespread criticism and accusations of racism after it began requiring South African nationals to complete a test in Afrikaans to prove their passport isn’t fraudulent.

The airline told BBC the new policy was implemented because of “substantially increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the U.K.”

Among other questions, the test asks passengers to name South Africa’s president, its capital city, and one national public holiday.

Ryanair has not said why it chose Afrikaans, the Dutch colonial language that many associate with white minority rule, for the test.

There are 11 official languages in South Africa, and Afrikaans ranks third for usage below Zulu and IsiXhosa. Only around 13% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as their first language.

“They’re using this in a manner that is utterly absurd,” Conrad Steenkamp, CEO of the Afrikaans Language Council, told reporters. “Afrikaans, you have roughly 20% of the population of South Africa understand Afrikaans. But the rest don’t, so you’re sitting with roughly 50 million people who do not understand Afrikaans.”

“Ryanair should be careful,” he continued. “Language is a sensitive issue. They may well end up in front of the Human Rights Commission with this.”

Ryanair’s policy only applies to South African passengers flying to the United Kingdom from within Europe, since it does not fly out of South Africa.

The British government has said in a statement that it does not require the test.

Anyone who cannot complete the test will be blocked from traveling and given a refund.

Memories of Apartheid Resurface

“The question requiring a person to name a public holiday is particularly on the nose given that SA has a whole public holiday NEXT WEEK commemorating an historic protest that started in response to language-based discrimination,” one person tweeted.

South African citizen Dinesh Joseph told the BBC that he was “seething” with anger when asked to take the test.

“It was the language of apartheid,” he said, adding that it was a trigger for him.

Officials in the country were also surprised by Ryanair’s decision.

We are taken aback by the decision of this airline because the Department regularly communicates with all airlines to update them on how to validate South African passports, including the look and feel,” South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.

Any airline found to have flown a passenger with a fake passport to the U.K. faces a fine of £2,000 from authorities there. Ryanair has also not said whether it requires similar tests for any other nationalities.

Many people expressed outrage at Ryanair’s policy and some told stories of being declined service because they did not pass the test.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Al Jazeera)

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