Peru opposition bids to oust economy minister over COVID-19 response

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Peru’s Finance Minister Maria Antonieta Alva talks to the media during a news conference at the Government Palace in Lima Peru, October 9, 2019. Picture taken October 9, 2019. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian lawmakers filed a censure motion to oust the government’s minister on Wednesday, underscoring political tensions as the Andean country rides out its deepest economic plunge in decades due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If accepted by Congress and passed in a vote by lawmakers, María Antonieta Alva, a 35-year-old, Harvard-trained public official, who has been a key figure in the administration of President Martin Vizcarra, would be forced to resign.

Lawmakers have squabbled over the government’s handling of Peru’s mining-driven economy during the pandemic, which has hit the South American country particularly hard despite a huge rescue package spearheaded by Alva.

The economy, which tumbled 30% in the second quarter of the year, is expected to contract 12% this year, the government said in August, after most operations ground to a halt in March.

Peru has the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections in South America, behind Brazil, according to a Reuters tally and the worst fatality rate per capita in the world.

Alva faced a grilling by Congress in the past week over the government’s economic reactivation program, which is equivalent to almost 20% of GDP, one of the region’s most aggressive.

Critics said the plan, which included social bonds and credit plans for struggling companies, did not go far enough to help small businesses.

Reporting by Maria Cervantes; Additional reporting Dante Alva; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Tom Brown

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