Peru: President Castillo arrested for ‘attempted coup’ – Politics

Peru: President Castillo arrested for ‘attempted coup’ – Politics

Basically, the people of Peru are used to some political chaos, but even by the standards of the South American country, Wednesday was an extraordinary day.

It had actually been planned that the previous head of state, Pedro Castillo, would face a trial for “moral incompetence” in parliament in the capital Lima. Ultimately, this could have led to impeachment. But before things got that far, the President summarily dissolved Congress, announced new elections and constitutional reform. He also imposed a night curfew.

Vice President Dina Boluarte takes the helm

All of this, in turn, was interpreted by parliament as an attempted coup – and instead of vacating Congress, the deputies voted by a large majority to remove the head of state. Pedro Castillo was arrested shortly afterwards in Lima and Vice President Dina Boluarte took over the business of government in accordance with the constitution.

This escalates a crisis that has been smoldering in Peru for years: Almost all the presidents that have existed in the South American country in recent decades have been accused of corruption and nepotism or are in prison. The heads of state have recently changed ever faster and in November 2020, in just under two weeks, three presidents changed hands. A transitional government took office, in 2021 there were new elections and surprisingly Pedro Castillo, a former village school teacher and left-wing union leader, won.

In the votes, however, he only had a wafer-thin majority over the right-wing candidate, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of ex-Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori, who still has popular support.

Always new scandals

Pedro Castillo, on the other hand, was barely able to win majorities in parliament, and his cabinet was shaken by constant new scandals: sometimes it was about corruption and taking advantage of individual members of the government, then again about violence against women or the trivialization of terrorism. On average, Castillo had to change a minister every week, and in his almost eighteen months in office he swore in a new cabinet five times.

At the same time, allegations against Castillo himself soon increased, including allegations of corruption and obstruction of justice. In December last year and in March he was accused of “moral incompetence” in Congress, but on both occasions there were not enough votes to remove the president from office. On Wednesday it was considered possible for the first time that parliamentarians would vote against the head of state with the necessary two-thirds majority.

There had been rumors beforehand that Castillo could dissolve the congress. The fact that he actually dared to take this step in the end caused surprise and outrage at the same time. Several ministers immediately resigned and Vice President Dina Boluarte spoke of a coup: “This is a coup that exacerbates the political and institutional crisis that Peruvian society must overcome in strict compliance with the law,” she said on Twitter.

Boluarte calls for a “political ceasefire”

The 60-year-old was sworn in as Peru’s new head of state in the evening. She is the first woman to head the South American country and stated in a speech that she intends to hold the office until the end of the 2026 legislative period. Boluarte called for a “political ceasefire” and promised to fight “the cancer of corruption” in Peru.

Meanwhile, Pedro Castillo remained in police custody. Demonstrations have taken place in several Peruvian cities, partly in support of the new government, but also by Castillo supporters demanding his release and return to office.

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