By Carlos Noriega – Jul 4, 2022
The crisis in Pedro Castillo’s government is worsening. Less than a month before the rural teacher and trade unionist who came to power as candidate of the left completes his first year in the presidency, the right wing, which from the first day of the government has bet on a coup, accelerates its plans to remove him from office abusing the power of the Congress that it controls.
The instability of the government is accentuated by the destabilizing maneuvers of the right wing, which in its coup plans has the support of the big media, but one cannot deny the responsibility of a presidential administration that has moved away from its proposals for change, is now inoperative and lacks direction, is stained by allegations of corruption, accumulates errors and controversial ministerial appointments, and is weakened from within by sectarian attitudes and divisions in the governing party.
In a new offensive against the government, the parliamentary right wing is trying to disqualify the president and the vice president, Dina Boluarte, removing them from their posts in order to take power. If both fall, the head of the government would be assumed by whoever at that time holds the presidency of the Congress. Currently that position is in the hands of the legislator of the Acción Popular party, María del Carmen Alva, very close to Fujimorismo and other ultra-right sectors, although in the last week of this month the parliamentary board of directors must be renewed, which will undoubtedly remain in the hands of the right wing, thus the coup promoted by the extreme right would be consummated.
As part of this plan, a few days ago, the Congressional Oversight Commission, presided by the pro-Fujimori parliamentarian Héctor Ventura, approved a report accusing Castillo of constitutional infringement for refusing to testify before that commission in a corruption investigation, and for the meetings he held at the beginning of his term in the house of a friend, outside the official agenda and without informing about those meetings. The accusation claims that in those meetings there were businessmen who later won bids.
Videos show lobbyist Karelim López, under judicial investigation for her intervention in the bidding process for the construction of a bridge in which there have been complaints of payment of bribes, entering the house where Castillo was receiving visitors. The president denies having met her in that place. The parliamentary commission report claims that Castillo heads a criminal organization to give public works tenders to certain businesspeople and lobbyists.
The president denies the charges. The parliamentary commission admits in its report that it does not have proof of Castillo’s guilt, but only indications and suspicions that must be investigated. Those are already being investigated by the prosecutor’s office, but the commission went out of its way to accuse Castillo.
Before this latest accusation, another constitutional complaint was presented in Congress against the president for the absurd charge of treason for having declared in an interview his sympathy for facilitating Bolivia’s access to the sea, a declaration in which there was no mention of ceding sovereignty, and which did not lead to any government decision. An accusation that reveals the desperation of the right wing to find any reason to remove Castillo.
The coup-plotting right wing knows that it does not have the 87 votes—two-thirds of the 130-member unicameral parliament—to remove Castillo from office alleging “moral incapacity,” something it has already tried unsuccessfully on two occasions; so now it resorts to the strategy of impeachment for an alleged constitutional violation to disqualify him from office and remove him from the presidency.
In order to approve the constitutional accusation, 87 votes are not required, but only a simple majority of 66 votes, which the ultra-right wing headed by Fujimorismo that promotes the parliamentary coup hopes to achieve in this new case. The risk for Castillo is high.
Vice President Boluarte in the spotlight
If the right wing succeeds in removing Castillo, it will need to get rid of the vice-president as well in order to take power. That is why Boluarte has been subjected to a constitutional complaint accusing her of having held a position as Minister of Development and Social Inclusion in the board of directors of the Apurímac Departmental Club, formed by migrants from Apurímac region who live in Lima, as is her case, when the Constitution prohibits a minister from holding any other position except teaching.
The vice president has defended herself by pointing out that when she was appointed minister, she resigned from her functions in the aforementioned club, and that the subsequent steps that she took regarding the organization were exclusively for administrative regularization to transfer her position. In Congress, it is not the arguments that are important, but the strength of the votes and the obsession of the right wing to overthrow the Castillo government.
While the right wing is advancing in its aim of closing the circle of the parliamentary coup, the ruling party is divided. The secretary general of the ruling party Peru Libre (PL), Vladimir Cerrón, publicly asked Castillo to resign from the party, accusing him of working to break the ruling party’s parliamentary bloc to form his own political group and for not fulfilling his campaign promises.
Under Cerrón’s demand, Castillo resigned from PL last week. The Peru Libre bloc has got divided multiple times in this first year of government. Of the 37 parliamentarians with which the party began, only 16 legislators remain in PL loyal to Cerrón. Those who resigned have dispersed, forming other blocs that support the government. Castillo is promoting the formation of a new party, the Partido Magisterial.
The rupture of Cerrón and Peru Libre with Castillo became evident this week when Cerronist parliamentarians voted together with the right wing to censure Interior Minister Dimitri Senmache, who has had to leave office less than two months after assuming charge. He was accused, without evidence, of having facilitated the flight of former Transport Minister Juan Silva and a nephew of Castillo, who are under judicial investigation and preventive arrest on charges of corruption in public works tenders. Senmache is the fourth minister removed by Congress in less than a year of government.
Cerrón plays to the radicalism of the left, but on more than one occasion he has become an ally of the parliamentary ultra right, joining the ultra conservatives in their actions against policies of gender equality and now to weaken the government. Cerrón’s sectarianism has blocked government alliances with other progressive sectors that would have strengthened it and has contributed decisively to its isolation.
The secretary general of Peru Libre wanted the government only for his party, and now that he has lost positions in the Executive branch, he has removed Castillo from the party and has voted together with the coup leaders to dismiss a minister, which has been a hard blow to the government. The votes of Cerronismo against the interior minister are a warning to Castillo of what could happen to him if he does not give in to their pressure to give more power to Cerrón and PL.
The president is now more isolated and weakened—a process that seems to be advancing without remedy—while the right wing in the Congress accelerates its coup plans, which threatens not only Castillo but even democracy, if that ultra-right wing achieves its goal of capturing all power.
Carlos Noriega is a correspondent in Peru for Radio France International and Página12.