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Peru’s President Dissolves Congress, and Lawmakers Suspend Him


Mr. Vizcarra’s announcement prompted supportive rallies in the capital, Lima, and the mountain city of Cuzco, where celebrating demonstrators chanted “yes, we could,” according to videos posted on social media.

But despite that outburst of support, Mr. Vizcarra’s argument that the dissolution was necessary to protect the country’s democracy will likely stoke painful memories in Peru. In 1992, the country’s newly elected president, Alberto Fujimori, used a similar argument of national renewal to justify dissolving Congress; he then embarked on a long campaign of demolishing the country’s democratic institutions.

Mr. Vizcarra said the opposition majority in Congress left him with no choice. The main opposition party — headed by Mr. Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko — has blocked or ignored all his major attempts at economic and political reform.

Opposition lawmakers have also resisted new elections. When Mr. Vizcarra tried to trigger a new vote, Congress denied his petition.

A former vice president, Mr. Vizcarra was sworn in last year after his boss, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, resigned to respond to charges related to an international graft scandal involving the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. Lacking an electoral mandate, Mr. Vizcarra has since built his strong popular appeal on an antigraft campaign supported by a majority of Peruvians.

Under the country’s Constitution, Mr. Vizcarra will be unable to run in a new presidential election.

The clash on Monday was the culmination of a long-running conflict between a president who derives his legitimacy from popular support and a Congress that appeals to the Constitution, said Carlos Meléndez, an expert in Peruvian politics at the Diego Portales University in Santiago, Chile.

“It is a paradox that a politician with democratic values can end up weakening the democracy,” said Mr. Meléndez. “In his anxiousness for confrontation, the president is confusing his political rivals with the institution they represent.”


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