Embattled Peru President Arrested 12/08 06:19
In just three tumultuous hours, President Pedro Castillo went from decreeing
the dissolution of Peru's Congress to being replaced by his vice president, but
the threats against his government had been building throughout his nearly
LIMA, Peru (AP) -- In just three tumultuous hours, President Pedro Castillo
went from decreeing the dissolution of Peru's Congress to being replaced by his
vice president, but the threats against his government had been building
throughout his nearly 17-month presidency.
The former school teacher and center-left political novice, who won a runoff
election in June 2021 by just 44,000 votes, stepped onto a no-holds-barred
political battlefield in Peru, the South American country now on its sixth
president in six years. By nightfall Wednesday, after a day of high political
drama, prosecutors had announced Castillo was under arrest, facing charges of
From the start, Castillo's presidency seemed destined to be short-lived,
said Flavia Freidenberg, a political scientist at the National Autonomous
University of Mexico and a member of the university's Latin America Political
"He is a president who took office with a very low level of support, he
didn't have a political party, he had a hard time putting together a Cabinet,
the Cabinet has changed constantly and there has been a constant power struggle
with Congress," she said.
Castillo, a rural school teacher from an impoverished district high in the
Andes, was considered a clear underdog when he joined the race to replace
President Francisco Sagasti, who had been appointed by Congress in November
2020. Sagasti was the last of three heads of state Peru cycled through in one
week that November.
Castillo campaigned on promises to nationalize Peru's key mining industry
and rewrite the constitution, gaining support in rural Peru. But upon taking
office in July 2021, Castillo immediately struggled with his Cabinet choices, a
number of whom have been accused of wrongdoing.
"He didn't unify the country," said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the
Council of the Americas. "He doesn't even seem to make much of an effort along
"He didn't have much of a mandate, and so he did not promote policies
somehow that were easily identifiable as for the good of the majority of the
people," Farnsworth said. "Instead, he became embroiled in intrigues,
corruption and battles with Congress."
The first attempt to impeach Castillo came last December At the time, a
relatively small group of opposition lawmakers cited an investigation by
prosecutors into illicit financing of the governing party. To remove the
president requires two-thirds of the 130 lawmakers to vote in favor. Only 46
voted in favor.
Congress tried to impeach Castillo again in March for "permanent moral
incapacity," a term incorporated into Peruvian constitutional law that experts
say lacks an objective definition and that Congress has used more than a half
dozen times since 2017 to try to remove presidents. The effort failed, this
time with only 55 votes in favor.
Each time, Castillo defended himself, arguing he had done nothing wrong.
"I salute that common sense, responsibility and democracy prevailed,"
Castillo tweeted after the second attempt.
He benefited from the fact that the unicameral Congress was deeply divided.
Castillo's party had the most seats, but with only 37, it alone could not
On Wednesday, Peru was girding itself for a third impeachment vote. Perhaps
Castillo feared this time there would be enough votes to oust him.
The night before, the president said in an unusual midnight address on state
television ahead of the vote that a certain sector of Congress had it out for
him and that he was paying for mistakes made due to inexperience.
Shortly before noon Wednesday, Castillo went on state television and
announced the dissolution of Congress. He said elections would be held to
choose new lawmakers and a new constitution would be written.
Various members of his Cabinet resigned immediately. Vice President Dina
Boluarte said via Twitter that the move only contributed to Peru's political
crisis. The Supreme Court, Constitutional Tribunal and national ombudsman
rejected it as an attempted coup.
Castillo was driven from the presidential palace through Lima's historic
downtown to a police station. Hours later prosecutors announced that Castillo
had been arrested on a charge of rebellion.
Two hours after his announcement, lawmakers who had ignored Castillo's
decree voted to remove him. This time they had the votes: 101 in favor, six
against and 10 abstentions.
At 3 p.m., Dina Boluarte, a 60-year-old lawyer, was sworn in as Peru's first
Boluarte said her first order of business would be to address government
corruption, ostensibly what led to Castillo's downfall. She had been expelled
in January from the Marxist Free Peru party, which Castillo rode to power, for
what she said was not sharing the ideas of its secretary general.
"There has been an attempted coup ... that has not found an echo in the
institutions, nor in the street," Boluarte said. She called for a political
truce to install a national unity government.
"What I ask for is a space, a time to rescue the country," she said.
Freidenberg, the political scientist, said Boluarte's swearing in was a
hopeful sign. "It is a singular opportunity to show Peruvians women's abilities
in a country that is chauvinist, misogynist, discriminatory and where women
have had so much trouble trying to access government."
But Boluarte also takes office with a weak mandate and no party.
"She has to begin to govern in a way that outreaches to political opponents
and also seeks to unify a coalition of supporters," said Farnsworth of the
Council of the Americas. "In order to have a working government, you have to
have a coalition big enough to advance policies and legislators behind you."
Hanging over the early days of her administration will be the question of
what to do with Castillo. Prosecutors vowed to investigate the ex-president for
allegedly rebelling against Peru's constitutional order.
In the streets, despite the tumult, only small-scale clashes erupted between
protesters and riot police -- outside a police station where Castillo was taken.
Farnsworth wondered whether Castillo would be put on trial or allowed to
seek asylum in another country.
"What do the Peruvian people want? Will they go to the streets and protest
and riot or will they give things a chance to calm down and return to some kind
of normalcy?" he said. "So I don't know what's going to happen in the immediate
term, but there are some big questions about this."