Peruvian President Pedro Castillo on Wednesday dissolved the nation’s Congress and called new legislative elections, beating lawmakers to the punch as they prepared to discuss a third attempt to remove him from office.
Castillo also installed a new emergency government and called a televised address for the next round of lawmakers to develop a new constitution for the Andean nation.
Meanwhile, he said he would rule by decree and ordered a nighttime curfew starting Wednesday evening.
Castillo also announced that he will change the heads of the judiciary, the police and the constitutional court.
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Castillo acted hours before Castillo’s opponents in Congress moved towards a third vote to remove him from office, claiming he has displayed a “permanent moral incapacity” to lead the Andean nation. It was unclear whether they had the 87 votes out of 130 lawmakers needed to remove him.
Castillo said in an unusual midnight speech on state television before the vote that he would never tarnish “the good name of my honest and exemplary parents, who like millions of Peruvians, work every day to honestly build a future for their families “.
The farmer-turned-president said he’s paying for mistakes made because of inexperience. But he said a certain section of Congress “has the only item on their agenda to remove me from office because they have never accepted the results of an election that you, my dear Peruvians, determined with your votes.” “.
Castillo, whose government began in July 2021, denied the charges against him, saying they were based on “hearsay statements from people who, seeking to lighten their punishments for alleged crimes by abusing my trust, are trying to implicate me without proof.”
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Federal prosecutors are investigating six cases against Castillo, most of them for alleged corruption, with the theory that he used his power to profit from public works.
The power struggle in Peru’s capital has continued as the Andes and its thousands of small farms struggle to survive the worst drought in half a century. Without rain, farmers cannot plant potatoes and the dying grass can no longer support the herds of sheep, alpacas, vicunas and llamas. To make matters worse, bird flu has killed at least 18,000 seabirds and infected at least one poultry farmer, endangering chicken and turkeys raised for traditional holiday meals.
The government also confirmed that the country suffered a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections last week. Since the start of the pandemic, 4.3 million Peruvians have been infected and 217,000 of them have died.
Castillo has three times the popularity of Congress, according to opinion polls. An Institute of Peruvian Studies poll last month found 86% disapproval of Congress and only 10% approval. while Castillo’s negative ratings were 61% and 31% approved of his performance.
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There is a stark contrast in the South American country: While the majority in Lima disapprove of Castillo and want him out, Peruvians in other cities and rural communities in the interior want him to complete his presidential term and promises. Instead, many Peruvians want Congress closed.
But with few secure votes in Congress, Castillo has been unable to deliver on his promises, including fighting corruption, raising taxes on mining, rewriting the constitution, and chasing alleged monopolies that have boosted profits. prices of natural gas and medicines.
The first president from a poor farming community in the nation’s 200-year history, Castillo arrived at the presidential palace last year with no political experience. He changed his cabinet five times during his year-and-a-half in office, going through 60 different cabinet officials, leaving various government agencies crippled.
Although Castillo is the first president to be investigated while still in office, the investigations come as no surprise in a country where nearly every former president over the past 40 years has been accused of corruption linked to corporations, such as the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.
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Since 2016, Peru has been entrenched in political crises, with congresses and presidents trying to eliminate each other. President Martín Vizcarra (2018-2020) dissolved Congress in 2019 and ordered new elections. That new legislature removed Vizcarra the following year. Then came President Manuel Merino, who lasted less than a week before a crackdown killed two protesters and injured 200 others. His successor, Francisco Sagasti, lasted nine months before Castillo took over.