Martín Vizcarra

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Martín Vizcarra

Martin Vizcarra (Presidential Portrait) (cropped).jpg
President of Peru
In office
23 March 2018 – 10 November 2020
Prime MinisterMercedes Aráoz
César Villanueva
Salvador del Solar
Vicente Zeballos
Pedro Cateriano
Walter Martos
Vice PresidentMercedes Aráoz (2018–2020)
Preceded byPedro Pablo Kuczynski
Succeeded byManuel Merino[1] (Under legal review)
President pro tempore of the Pacific Alliance
In office
24 July 2018 – 6 July 2019
Preceded byJuan Manuel Santos
Succeeded bySebastián Piñera
First Vice President of Peru
In office
28 July 2016 – 23 March 2018
PresidentPedro Pablo Kuczynski
Preceded byMarisol Espinoza
Succeeded byVacant
Ambassador of Peru to Canada
In office
18 October 2017 – 23 March 2018
Preceded byMarcela López Bravo
Succeeded byCarlos Gil de Montes Molinari
Minister of Transport and Communications
In office
28 July 2016 – 22 May 2017
PresidentPedro Pablo Kuczynski
Prime MinisterFernando Zavala
Preceded byJosé Gallardo Ku
Succeeded byBruno Giuffra
3rd Governor of Moquegua
In office
1 January 2011 – 31 December 2014
LieutenantTomás Portilla Alarcón
Preceded byJaime Rodríguez Villanueva
Succeeded byJaime Rodríguez Villanueva
Personal details
Born
Martín Alberto Vizcarra Cornejo

(1963-03-22) 22 March 1963 (age 57)
Lima, Peru
NationalityPeruvian
Political partyIndependent
Other political
affiliations
Peruvians for Change (non affiliated)
Spouse(s)Maribel Díaz Cabello
Children4
Alma materNational University of Engineering (B.S.)
Signature

Martín Alberto Vizcarra Cornejo OSP CYC GColIH (American Spanish: [maɾˈtin alˈβeɾto βisˈkara koɾˈnexo] (About this soundlisten);[a] born 22 March 1963)[2] is a Peruvian engineer and politician who served as President of Peru from 2018 to 2020. Vizcarra previously served as Governor of the Moquegua Region (2011–2014), Minister of Transport and Communications of Peru (2016–2017), and Ambassador of Peru to Canada (2017–2018), with both of the latter two during the presidency of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. The Peruvian Congress voted to impeach Martin Vizcarra in November 2020, removing him from the presidency.

In the 2016 general election, Vizcarra ran with the Peruvians for Change presidential ticket as candidate for first vice president and as Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's running mate. The ticket narrowly defeated Keiko Fujimori's Popular Force nomination. Vizcarra was sworn into office as president on 23 March 2018 following the resignation of President Kuczynski.[3][4] Throughout his tenure, Vizcarra remained independent from political parties, promoted reforms against corruption in the legislative and judicial branches and vowed to not run for president when his term ends in 2021.[5][6][7] Following what he described as a "factual denial of confidence" against his government, Vizcarra dissolved the Peruvian Congress on 30 September 2019 and, on the same day, issued a decree for legislative elections. The snap-election for a new congress was held on 26 January 2020, with the legislature elected becoming opposition-led once again.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru, Vizcarra instituted stay-at-home orders and issued relief funds, but existing inequality, overcrowding and a largely informal economy saw Peru being heavily affected by the pandemic. As a result, Peru's gross domestic product declined thirty percent, increasing political pressure on Vizcarra's government. In September 2020, Congress opened impeachment proceedings against Vizcarra on grounds of "moral incapacity", accusing him of influence peddling after audio recordings were released by an opposition legislator, but the process did not receive enough votes to remove him from office.

On 9 November 2020, the Peruvian Congress impeached Vizcarra a second time, after declaring him "morally incompetent"; he was removed from office.[8] The President of Congress and opposition leader, Manuel Merino, succeeded him as President of Peru the following day.[9] Vizcarra's impeachment incited the 2020 Peruvian protests, as many Peruvians[10] and political analysts believed the impeachment was unsubstantiated[11], with several Peruvian media outlets labeling the impeachment a "coup".[12][13][14][15][16]

Early life[edit]

Vizcarra was born in Lima, the son of César Vizcarra Vargas, who was an American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA) member, and Doris Cornejo, an elementary school teacher. His father was mayor of Moquegua and a member of the Constituent Assembly of 1978. His family was based in Moquegua, but moved to Lima due to a pulmonary complication that put him on the verge of death at his birth. Vizcarra has stated that his father had a lasting impact on his life.[17]

Education[edit]

Vizcarra studied at the IEP Juan XXIII and the GUE Simón Bolívar, in Moquegua. For university education, Vizcarra graduated from the National University of Engineering in Lima in 1984[18] while also earning a degree in Management Administration from the School of Business Administration (ESAN).[19]

Governor of Moquegua[edit]

His political ambitions began in his home region of Moquegua, where he ran as an independent affiliated with the APRA party for the governorship in 2006, narrowly missing election.[17] In 2008, Vizcarra led protests, known as "Moqueguazo", surrounding unequal mining payments to the community.[17] He travelled to Lima to mediate the crisis, explaining the payment issue to the Peruvian Council of Ministers who agreed to make necessary changes to laws surrounding the issue. This event inspired Vizcarra's further political ambitions.[17]

In 2011, Vizcarra was elected to be Governor of Moquegua. During his tenure, social indexes improved and he avoided corruption issues, an achievement The Washington Post described as "one of the rare examples" in Peru. He also conciliated another mining conflict between mining company Anglo American and residents concerned about potential drinking water contamination by a proposed copper mine, playing a major role in settling the dispute. Vizcarra served as governor until the end of 2014.[17]

Vice-presidency (2016–2018)[edit]

Vizcarra was elected into the office of First Vice President of Peru in 2016 general election, running beside Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of the Peruanos Por el Kambio party. Shortly after being elected, he was also tasked with serving as Minister of Transportation and Communications.[20]

Minister of Transportation and Communications (2016–2017)[edit]

As Minister of Transportation and Communications, Vizcarra served for about one year. During a series of floods in late 2016 and early 2017 which devastated much of Peru, he was tasked with managing the crisis.[21]

With allegations of bribery and bureaucracy plaguing the construction of the Chinchero International Airport in Cusco, Vizcarra cancelled many contracts until an investigation by the Comptroller's Office was completed. After facing complaints by political opponents and being summoned to provide hours of testimony surrounding the project, all while being tasked with providing reconstruction following the flooding that affected Peru, Vizcarra resigned his position as minister. Shortly after his resignation, the Comptroller General Edgar Alarcón recommended legal action against ten officials involved with the airport's construction.[22]

Analysts stated that overall, Vizcarra's performance as minister was positive, but it was plagued by complications from the Fujimori family's political forces, known as Fujimoristas.[23]

Ambassador to Canada (2017–2018)[edit]

After resigning from the previous ministry, he was appointed to be the Peruvian Ambassador to Canada, avoiding public attention.[17] He only returned to Peru during the first impeachment proceedings against President Kuczynski,[24] returning to Canada shortly thereafter.

President of Peru (2018–2020)[edit]

Following the resignation of President Kuczynski, Vizcarra returned to Peru to assume the presidency on 23 March 2018.[25] Upon being sworn in, Vizcarra stated in regards to corruption, "we've had enough", promising to lead against such practices in the Andean nation.[26]

Peruvian author and Nobel laureate in Literature Mario Vargas Llosa stated that Vizcarra's "credentials are pretty good" and that although other Peruvian politicians have faced political controversy, Vizcarra "has acted within the law". Vargas Llosa also noted that if Vizcarra's popularity were to increase enough, "then immediately in Congress, the Fujimoristas will forget their internal struggles and will probably make life difficult for him".[27]

Climate change[edit]

We must be responsible to leave a legacy to our children and the future generations of Peru.

— Martín Vizcarra, 17 April 2018

On 17 April 2018, President Vizcarra signed the Law for Climate Change, allowing for more funding toward the Ministry of the Environment (MINAM) to monitor and combat climate change by analyzing greenhouse gas emissions while also creating a framework of inter-ministerial cooperation regarding the climate.[28][29]

The signing made Peru the first country in South America to have a climate law, with Vizcarra stating that climate change could no longer be ignored and that the Government of Peru had an obligation to work together to provide a better environment for future Peruvians.[28][29]

Anti-corruption initiatives[edit]

2018 Peruvian constitutional referendum[edit]

Following multiple corruption scandals facing the Peruvian government, on 28 July 2018, President Vizcarra called for a nationwide referendum to prohibit private funding for political campaigns, ban the reelection of lawmakers and to create a second legislative chamber.[5]

The Washington Post stated that "Vizcarra’s decisive response to a graft scandal engulfing the highest tiers of the judiciary ... has some Peruvians talking of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore integrity to public life and revive citizens’ waning faith in democracy".[30] Leftist lawmaker Marisa Glave, who was once a critic of Vizcarra, praised the move saying he had "connected with the people in a society that is both fed up with corruption but also deeply apolitical. It has put the Fujimoristas in check".[30] Transparency International also praised the move, stating that "This is a very important opportunity, one that is unlike previous opportunities because, in part, the president appears genuinely committed".[30]

Following the temporary detention of Keiko Fujimori, legislators belonging to American Popular Revolutionary Alliance and the Fujimorista-led Popular Force introduced a bill the following day on 11 October 2018 to remove Vizcarra's referendum proposals and to modify the referendum with their own suggestions to the public.[31]

On 9 December 2018, Peruvians ultimately accepted three of four of the proposals in the referendum, only rejecting the final proposal of creating a bicameral congress when Vizcarra withdrew his support when the Fujimorista-led congress manipulated the proposals contents which would have removed power from the presidency.[32]

Dissolution of congress[edit]

In the Constitution of Peru, the executive branch can dissolve congress after a second vote of no-confidence.[33][34] Under former president of Peru Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the Congress of Peru made a no-confidence vote on 15 September 2017, resulting in the collapse of the Cabinet of Peru,[35] the first vote of no-confidence during that current congressional body.[33] Vizcarra enacted a constitutional process on 29 May 2019 that would create a motion of no confidence towards congress if they refused to cooperate with his proposed actions against corruption.[36] For the next four months, congress delayed bills targeting corruption and postponed general elections proposed by Vizcarra.[34]

Demanding reforms against corruption, Vizcarra called for a vote of no confidence on 27 September 2019, stating it was "clear the democracy of our nation is at risk".[33] Vizcarra and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights criticized congress for blocking a proposal for general elections while it quickly approved nominations to the Constitutional Court of Peru without investigating the backgrounds on nominees.[33] Vizcarra sought to reform the Constitutional Court nomination process and congress' approval or disapproval of his proposal was seen "as a sign of confidence in his administration".[33]

On 30 September 2019, congress named a new member to the Constitutional Court of Peru, who would most likely decide disputes between congress and the presidency, ignoring his proposal for reform.[34] Vizcarra argued that the appointment by congress was the second act of no-confidence in his government, granting him the authority to dissolve congress.[34] This act, as well as the months of slow progress towards anti-corruption reforms, pushed Vizcarra to dissolve congress later that day, with Vizcarra stating "Peruvian people, we have done all we could".[34] Shortly after Vizcarra announced the dissolution of congress, the legislative body refused to recognize the president's actions, declared Vizcarra as suspended from the presidency and named vice president Mercedes Aráoz as the new president of Peru.[34] Despite this, Peruvian government officials stated that the actions by congress were void as the body was officially closed at the time of their declarations.[34]

By nightfall, Peruvians gathered outside of the Legislative Palace of Peru to protest against congress and demand the removal of legislators[34] while the heads of the Peruvian Armed Forces met with Vizcarra, announcing that they still recognized him as president of Peru and head of the armed forces.[37]

In January 2020, the Constitutional Court of Peru defended Vizcarra's actions, with four judges approving and three judges disapproving of the action.[7] On 26 January 2020, a legislative election was held to replace the dissolved congress, with the previous Fujimorist majority being replaced with many centrist parties.[7] Analysts Diego Pereira and Lucila Barbeito of JPMorgan Chase & Co described the new congress as being "even more antagonistic to the [Vizcarra] government than the previous one".[6] According to Americas Quarterly, the four main right-wing parties of congress – Alliance for Progress, Podemos Perú, Popular Action and Union for Peru – feared Vizcarra's anti-corruption measures on campaign financing, political transparency and the participation of convicted persons in government.[38]

COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

During Vizcarra's tenure, Peru experienced the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Latin America, with 292,004 cases and 10,045 deaths as of 2 July 2020.[39] Medical experts commented that the severity of the outbreak in Peru can be explained at least in part due to existing socioeconomic circumstances.[40] Nearly one-third of Peruvians live in overcrowded homes and 72% have informal jobs, requiring them to work daily.[40] Many Peruvians needed to travel daily to markets to purchase food since only 49% of households own refrigerators or freezers; even in urban areas it is only 61%.[40] Banks also experienced crowding as relief recipients without bank accounts had to go in person to obtain their stimulus payments.[40] Vizcarra's government has responded to the pandemic by maintaining a nationwide lockdown since 15 March 2020, with all businesses except pharmacies, food vendors, financial institutions, and health facilities being closed.[41]

Peru's gross domestic product fell 30.2 percent in the second quarter of 2020 as a result of economic lockdown measures, the largest decline of all major economies, with many small service businesses that represent the majority of businesses of Peru's economy going bankrupt during the crisis.[42] Employment also dropped 40 percent compared to the previous rate while the Peruvian government approved 128 billion PEN ($35.8 billion USD) of tax relief and low-rate business loans to deter further economic decline.[42]

Impeachment trials[edit]

The impeachment processes were led by the imprisoned Antauro Humala and his Union for Peru (UPP) party, according to reports in Peru.[43] Humala was sentenced to 19 years in prison following his Andahuaylazo uprising against President Alejandro Toledo that resulted in the deaths of police.[43] From his cell, Humala reportedly orchestrated the impeachment process with members of congress and his UPP supporters.[43] Edgar Alarcón, a UPP congressman and a close supporter of Humala, took charge with the impeachment processes against Vizcarra, making the charges that began both trials.[43] Alarcón himself, according to Vice News, was protected from criminal charges of embezzlement and illicit monetary gains due to parliamentary immunity, charges that could have resulted with seventeen years in prison.[43]

First impeachment trial (September 2020)[edit]

As Peru's economy declined due to the pandemic, Vizcarra faced increased political pressure from the newly inaugurated congress presided by Manuel Merino, with the majority of the legislative body being controlled by those opposing Vizcarra.[6] Since early 2020, investigations began surrounding a contract for a little-known singer Richard Cisneros to perform speeches for the Ministry of Culture.[6] It was alleged that an inexperienced Cisneros was able to receive payments totaling US$50,000 due to contacts in the Government Palace.[6]

Investigators searched offices in the Government Palace on 1 June 2020 regarding the alleged irregularities.[6] On 10 September 2020, opposition lawmaker Edgar Alarcon, who faced possible parliamentary immunity revocation related to alleged acts of corruption, released audio recordings purporting that Vizcarra acted with "moral incapacity".[44][45] The recordings allegedly contain audio of Vizcarra instructing his staff to say that he met with Cisneros only on a limited number of occasions and audio of Cisneros saying that he influenced Vizcarra's rise to office and decision to dissolve congress.[44][45]

Merino quickly initiated a movement to remove Vizcarra from office.[38] As President of Congress, Merino would assume the presidential office if Vizcarra was vacated.[38] Vizcarra responded to the release of the recordings, stating, "I am not going to resign. I am not running away" and that the "audios have been edited and maliciously manipulated; as you can see, they purposely seek to turn a job-related claim into a criminal or political act, wanting to take words out of context and intend to accuse me of non-existent situations. Nothing is further from reality".[45]

On 11 September 2020, the Peruvian Congress voted 65–36 with 24 abstentions to open impeachment proceedings against Vizcarra for "moral incapacity". At least 52 votes in favor were needed to approve the opening of the impeachment proceedings.[46][47] After reports emerged that Merino reportedly reached out to the Peruvian armed forces to support the process and was forming his own cabinet, support among lawmakers for impeaching Vizcarra decreased.[38]

As scheduled, Vizcarra appeared in Congress on 18 September to defend himself and delivered a 20-minute speech after its session began. After a 10-hour debate, Congress voted 32–78 with 15 abstentions against removing Vizcarra from office, far from the 87 votes (out of 130) that were needed by the opposition to impeach him.[48][49] Had Vizcarra already been impeached by that time, Merino would have already acted as interim leader until the current presidential term ends in July 2021.[50]

Second impeachment trial (November 2020)[edit]

In a separate impeachment trial, lawmakers from nine opposition parties accused Vizcarra of corruption and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. He was also accused of accepting bribes from companies that won at least two public works contracts—one for a hospital and another for an irrigation project—during his term as governor of Moquegua Department.[51] On 9 November 2020, a total of 105 members of Congress voted to remove Vizcarra from office, exceeding the 87 votes (out of 130) that were needed to impeach him.[52] Vizcarra called the accusations baseless and false, but still accepted the vote by Congress and promised not to take any other legal action.[53]

Thousands of citizens then gathered in protests against Vizcarra's impeachment.[54] Manuel Merino, who succeeded him as president the following day, resigned on 15 November.[55] Francisco Sagasti was made President of Congress on the 16th and thus succeeded Merino as President of Peru on 17 November per Peru's presidential line of succession, since both Vice Presidential positions were vacated by Vizcarra in 2018 and Mercedes Aráoz in May 2020.[56][57]

Public image[edit]

During Vizcarra's inauguration ceremony, some Peruvians took to the streets to protest against the government, calling for the removal of all politicians.[26] Weeks later, an Ipsos survey in April 2018 found that out of those asked Vizcarra had an approval rate of 57%, a disapproval rate of 13% while about 30% of respondents were undecided.[58] A month later, Vizcarra's approval rating dipped to 52% according to a May 2018 Ipsos survey.[59] By September 2018 after he had called for a referendum, thousands of Peruvians marched in support of his proposal and to protest against Congress,[60] with Ipsos reporting that Vizcarra's approval rating reached a peak of 66% in December 2018.[61]

Into 2019, Ipsos polls showed that support for Vizcarra began to decline early in the year, that his approval rating in April 2019 was at 44% compared to 45% disapproval and that approval ratings were higher among upper-income respondents compared to lower-income respondents.[61] By the time Vizcarra dissolved congress, The Washington Post described him as "an unexpectedly popular president" as he dealt with "the monumental task of rooting out the South American nation’s widespread corruption".[33] After the dissolution of congress, Vizcarra's approval rating jumped from about 40% to 75% according to the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP), while 76% of respondents recognized him as the constitutional president of Peru.[62] Another poll by Peruvian pollster CPI found 85.1% of respondents approved of Vizcarra and 89.1% recognized him as president.[63]

Following Peru's 2020 legislative elections that replaced an unpopular congress, The Economist wrote "By championing the fight against corruption, Mr Vizcarra has achieved the rare feat for a Peruvian president of remaining popular".[7] Americas Quarterly penned that Vizcarra had "overwhelming public support", but without a political party or allies in congress, his anti-corruption initiatives faced resistance.[38]

Political ideology[edit]

Vizcarra is described as a centrist[64] and he has attributed his political beliefs as stemming from his father, with Vizcarra saying that his guidance made him concerned about social issues.[17] He values his ability to "know how to listen" and to "go step by step", with his supporters often describing him as a bridge builder who is able to mediate complicated situations.[17] Left-wing parties applauded Vizcarra's anti-corruption efforts, his dissolution of congress and his attempts to move forward with general elections.[65][66]

Honours[edit]

Vizcarra receiving the Keys to the City of Madrid next to Manuela Carmena.
Awards and orders Country Date Notes
PER Order of the Sun of Peru - Grand Cross BAR.png Grand Master of the Order of the Sun of Peru  Peru 23 March 2018 [67]
Grand Master of the Order of Merit for Distinguished Service  Peru 23 March 2018 [67]
PRT Order of Prince Henry - Grand Collar BAR.png Grand Collar of the Order of Prince Henry  Portugal 25 February 2019 [68]
Order of Isabella the Catholic - Sash of Collar.svg Knight of the Collar of the Order of Isabella the Catholic  Spain 23 February 2019 [69]
Keys to the City of Madrid  Spain 27 February 2019 [70]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In Peninsular Spanish, Vizcarra is pronounced [βiθˈkařa].

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jaime Rodríguez Villanueva
Governor of the Moquegua Region
2011–2014
Succeeded by
Jaime Rodríguez Villanueva
Preceded by
José Gallardo Ku
Minister of Transport and Communications
2016–2017
Succeeded by
Bruno Giuffra
Preceded by
Marisol Espinoza
First Vice President of Peru
2016–2018
Succeeded by
Mercedes Aráoz
Preceded by
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski
President of Peru
2018–2020
Succeeded by
Manuel Merino
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Marcela López Bravo
Ambassador of Peru to Canada
2017–2018
Succeeded by
Carlos Gil de Montes Molinari