Manuel Merino was sworn in as interim President of Peru earlier this week, a day after ex-President Martin Vizcarra was ousted by Congress.

Demonstrators clash with police during a protest against the decision of Congress to remove former President Martin Vizcarra, in Lima, Peru on November 14, 2020.
Demonstrators clash with police during a protest against the decision of Congress to remove former President Martin Vizcarra, in Lima, Peru on November 14, 2020. (Reuters)

Thousands of Peruvians have taken to the streets again in rallies against President Manuel Merino, while his interim government continues to defend as "constitutional" this week's abrupt ouster of former president Martin Vizcarra.

Protesters jammed many plazas in downtown Lima in the afternoon, with demonstrations beginning peacefully but growing more intense by early evening.

Early in the day, in the central Plaza San Martín, hundreds of mostly young protesters unveiled a massive Peruvian flag and sang the national anthem.

Later, a band of hooded protesters confronted police, throwing rocks and fireworks at them, and security forces fired back with tear gas.

The city echoed with sirens, shouts and chants of protesters demanding Merino´s removal.

READ MORE: Dozens wounded in Peru as protesters and police clash amid political crisis

"A constitutional change"

Earlier, Prime Minister Antero Flores-Araoz told reporters that Vizcarra´s removal on corruption charges by the opposition-dominated Congress had been legal. He said Merino had no intention of caving to demands from protesters that he resign.

"This was a constitutional change," Flores-Araoz said.

"We ask people for understanding. We don´t want to descend into chaos and anarchy."

Earlier this week, some of the largest protests in decades roiled Peru´s capital, with dozens injured in clashes between protesters and security forces. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to tame the unrest, and humans rights groups said their use of force was excessive.

"Given the situation, young people cannot be indifferent, we must demand respect," said Sonia Julca, an economist from the University of Callao. "The people are against this government led by Merino."

Merino, a member of the center-right Popular Action party who had been the head of Congress, moved quickly to swear in a new cabinet this week after Vizcarra was removed on Monday. He has called for calm and promised to stick with a plan for presidential elections in April.

Vizcarra, a politically unaffiliated centrist who is popular with Peruvians, oversaw an anti-graft campaign that led to frequent clashes with Congress in a country that has a history of political upheaval and corruption.

The former president has yet to b e found guilty of the corruption charges brought against him during the impeachment hearing prior to his ouster.

READ MORE: Peru top court rejects bid to block President Vizcarra's impeachment vote

Source: Reuters