By Carlos Noreaga – Dec 7, 2022
Rural teacher and trade unionist Pedro Castillo has had a troubled presidency. From the beginning, he faced attempts by the right wing in parliament, where the extreme right predominates, to remove him. However, he was also weakened by his abandonment of campaign proposals that raised many hopes among Peruvians, the serious shortcomings of his management, repeated signs of ineffectiveness, questioned appointments, and corruption scandals. There were four attempts to remove him from the presidency before Castillo decided to attempt carrying out his own coup against Congress, trying to shut it down in an unconstitutional decision that failed.
Castillo surprisingly won the 2021 elections. In a fragmented election, he went to the second round with 19 percent of the votes and narrowly defeated Keiko Fujimori. Before the election, he was outside of the political class, and was best known for leading a long teachers’ strike in 2017. Of peasant and Andean origin, most of the historically excluded sectors identified with him. They saw him as one of theirs coming to the presidency for the first time. He won the elections promising to change the neoliberal economic model and to prioritize those marginalized sectors. In addition, Castillo promised to meet the popular demand and convene a Constituent Assembly to change the neoliberal Constitution inherited from the Fujimori dictatorship. Those promises were not kept. Castillo maintained his rhetoric of change, but has not applied any legislative measures to put his campaign promises into practice. The Constituent Assembly was unable to get off the ground because of opposition from the right-wing-controlled Congress.
Bullying from the right
The right tried to ignore Castillo’s legitimate electoral victory, citing non-existent electoral fraud. That first coup attempt to prevent him from assuming the presidency failed. However, the attacks did not subside. From the first day of his government, that extreme right maneuvered to remove him. Castillo took office with a minority in a Congress controlled by various right-wing groups. He won the elections as a candidate for the Perú Libre (PL) party, which defines itself as Marxist-Leninist, although Castillo always denied being a communist. His government began as a progressive front, to which other sectors of the left outside PL joined. However, the internal divisions quickly deepened, and in six months that front was broken. Then he was separated from PL. Castillo found himself politically isolated, and his situation was severely complicated by successive corruption accusations.
When he had barely completed four months in government, the ultra-right filed a first petition to dismiss him, alleging the president’s “permanent moral incapacity” due to allegations of corruption that were under investigation. This ambiguous term lends itself to arbitrariness if you have the necessary votes. The complaints against Castillo were based on uncorroborated testimony. With 46 votes, that first impeachment attempt was far from the 87 needed, two-thirds of the unicameral Congress, to be approved. In March, the right again tried to remove the president for the same cause and the same arguments. They failed again, obtaining only 55 votes.
In October, the prosecutor’s office filed a complaint against Castillo to Congress, accusing him of leading a criminal organization to direct public tenders. The accusation was based on testimonies from former officials of his government and businesspeople who accused Castillo of collecting bribes. Castillo’s accusers are being prosecuted for corruption and have exchanged their accusatory testimonies against the president for judicial benefits. This fiscal complaint led to a political trial being opened in Congress—another way to remove him, despite the fact that the Constitution does not allow the accusation of a president in office for the crimes that the prosecution imputes to Castillo; he can only be prosecuted for treason, for unconstitutionally shutting down Congress, or for preventing elections. Based on a tax complaint, the parliamentary opposition set up a third impeachment process for the president for “permanent moral incapacity”, which was to be reviewed this Wednesday, but Castillo closed Congress. There was great uncertainty if the 87 votes would be reached to remove him.
Before this third impeachment request, the parliamentary opposition opened another impeachment trial against Castillo, in this case for treason. This was an absurd, unsubstantiated accusation, based on a journalistic statement by the president in which he expressed his sympathy with Bolivia’s demand for an outlet to the sea and spoke of the possibility of a referendum to ask Peruvians if they support that demand, which was never put into practice. Despite the absurdity of this accusation, a parliamentary commission approved it immediately. However, the Constitutional Court annulled that process, stating that it had no basis.
Peru: President Castillo Ousted and Arrested Amid Profound Political Crisis
Another maneuver in Congress to remove Castillo was to approve a rule a few days ago that allows the president to be “suspended” for temporary disability with 66 votes instead of the 87 necessary for removal. The Constitution allows a temporary suspension of the president, but referred to health problems or others that prevent him from temporarily exercising the presidency. The right wanted to apply it, alleging the allegations of corruption against Castillo. It was Plan B for the right if they did not get the 87 votes for removal for “permanent moral incapacity.”
In this context of harassment from the right, and of serious problems and weaknesses of his government and allegations of corruption against him, Castillo opted to counterattack by announcing the closure of Congress, but he was left isolated, and ended up arrested.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
slorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/slorinoco/March 14, 2023
slorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/slorinoco/November 24, 2022
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