Chile's president loses third interior minister in a year

FILE PHOTO: Chile's President Sebastian Pinera shows his ballot before casting his vote at a polling station during a referendum on a new Chilean constitution in Santiago, Chile, October 25, 2020. Marcelo Segura/Courtesy of Chilean Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile’s interior minister, Victor Perez, resigned amid a legislative move to oust him on Tuesday in yet another blow for the administration of center-right President Sebastian Pinera.

Pinera’s opposition in Congress had accused Perez, who was appointed in July, of mishandling violence in Chile’s turbulent Araucania region and failing to properly address alleged human rights violations during recent protests in Santiago.

Perez resigned immediately following a lower chamber debate and vote on Tuesday that approved pushing forward with his censure and impeachment.

The former interior minister told reporters the vote was purely political and meant to weaken Pinera’s already-ailing government.

“In today’s debate it was impossible to convince absolutely anyone” of anything, Perez said. “Therefore, this is a political decision intended to cause damage to the government.”

Perez is the third interior minister to serve Pinera in the past year, a tumultuous period in Chile marked by mass protests over inequality and a raging coronavirus pandemic that have combined to hobble the South American nation’s long-stable economy.

Chile is the world’s top copper producer.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood in Santiago; Editing by Matthew Lewis