Peruvian president overthrown and arrested after trying to dissolve Congress

LIMA: Left-wing Peruvian President Pedro Castillo was ousted by lawmakers and arrested on Wednesday in a dizzying series of events in a country long prone to political upheaval.
Dina Boluarte, a 60-year-old lawyer who had served as vice president, was sworn in as Peru’s first female president just hours after Castillo tried to dissolve Congress in a move criticized as a coup attempt .
The day of great drama began with Castillo facing his third impeachment attempt since the former rural school teacher unexpectedly won power from Peru’s traditional political elite in an election 18 years ago. month.
In a televised address to the nation, the 53-year-old announced he was dissolving the opposition-dominated Congress, installing a curfew and ruling by decree.
As criticism poured in over the address, lawmakers defiantly gathered ahead of schedule to debate the impeachment motion and approved it, with 101 votes out of a total of 130 lawmakers.
Castillo was impeached for his “moral inability” to exercise power, after a litany of crises including six investigations against him, five cabinet reshuffles and major protests.
The constitution allows impeachment proceedings to be brought against a president based on alleged political rather than legal acts, making impeachments commonplace in Peru.
Castillo was arrested Wednesday night, said Marita Barreto, coordinator of a team of prosecutors who deal with government corruption.
A source at the attorney general’s office told AFP he was being investigated for rebellion.
Castillo became the third president since 2018 to be sacked under the constitution’s “moral incapacity” provision.
Within two hours, Boluarte was sworn in before Congress to serve the rest of Castillo’s term, until July 2026.
Peru is no stranger to political instability: it had three different presidents in five days in 2020, and is now on its sixth president since 2016.
After the impeachment vote, Castillo had left the presidential palace with a bodyguard, heading for Lima police headquarters before his arrest was officially announced.
His supporters criticized the ousting of their leader.
“I want to denounce the fact that our president was kidnapped by the national police, that he was detained with premeditation and treason by Congress,” said retired soldier Manuel Gaviria, 59.
But during his swearing in before lawmakers, wearing the presidential sash, Boluarte said “there was a coup attempt by Mr. Pedro Castillo which received no support in the institutions democratic or in the street”.
Castillo came seemingly out of nowhere to win 50.12% of the vote in the June 2021 election runoff against right-wing Keiko Fujimori, the accused corruption daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who was convicted of corruption.
The ousted president was born in a small village where he worked as a teacher for 24 years and was largely unknown until he led a nationwide strike in 2017 that forced the then government to agree to pay the demands increase.
Castillo has sought to present himself as a humble servant of the people, traveling on horseback for much of his presidential campaign and promising to end corruption.
However, allegations against him soon poured in.
The investigations he faces range from alleged corruption and obstruction of justice to plagiarism of his university thesis.
In October, Peru’s attorney general also filed a constitutional complaint accusing Castillo of leading a criminal organization involving his family and allies.
Castillo and his lawyers have long maintained that the investigations against him were part of a plot to overthrow him.
“This intolerable situation cannot continue,” he said earlier Wednesday as he announced a plan to convene a new Congress to draft an updated constitution within nine months.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Congress ahead of the vote.
“We are fed up with this corrupt government that stole from day one,” said 51-year-old Johana Salazar.
Ricardo Palomino, 50, a systems engineer, said Castillo’s attempt to dissolve parliament was “totally unacceptable and unconstitutional. It went against everything and here are the consequences”.
Prior to the impeachment, the United States called on Castillo to “reconsider” and said after the vote it no longer considered him president.
“It is my understanding that, given the action of Congress, he is now former President Castillo,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, saying lawmakers had taken “steps corrective action” in accordance with democratic rules.
Latin American governments expressed deep concern and called for respect for democracy, but there were also hints of support for Castillo from fellow left-wing leaders.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, one of Castillo’s staunchest allies, has blamed “economic and political elites” for a hostile environment since beginning his “legitimate presidency”.
The government of Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first left-wing president, called for a dialogue involving “all political actors”, adding that “democracy requires recognition of the popular will expressed both in presidential elections and in Congress”. .
Brazil was more critical of Castillo’s actions, calling his attempt to dissolve Congress a “violation” of democracy and the rule of law.


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