Uncertainty prevails after ousted President Pedro Castillo tried to dissolve Congress following constitutional rules, ultimately leading to his controversial detention.
The political crisis in Peru has already left a provisional toll of four deaths, a call for early presidential elections, and a climate of violence due to the police repression of the massive protests by citizens in favor of former President Pedro Castillo and against the new president, Dina Boluarte. Boluarte came to power following the coup d’etat carried out by the Congress after months of failed attempts.
There is also uncertainty about Castillo’s future, as Mexico insists on granting him asylum. However, the corrupted Peruvian judiciary wants to try Castillo for several cases of alleged corruption and for crimes he allegedly committed last Wednesday, December 7, when he announced the dissolution of Congress and a “government of exceptional emergency.” The dissolution of Congress is permitted by the Peruvian constitution and was debated by the Peruvian public opinion for months.
On that day, the tension that had prevailed in Peru since Castillo took office on July 28 of last year burst. And the climate of tension has only increased.
This tension has been exacerbated by a complaint against Castillo that the National Prosecutor Patricia Benavidez presented to Congress on Monday, December 12, accusing him of crimes of rebellion and conspiracy. It was further reflected in the parliamentary debates, which culminated on Sunday, December 11, when Congressman Pasión Dávila of the Peru Libre party punched Juan Burgos, of Avanza País, in a session that had to be suspended to avoid a brawl.
A state of emergency was declared in the departments of Apurimac, Arequipa and Ica by the new de facto ruler. These departments see some of the largest protests carried out by citizens who do not recognize Boluarte and demand the release of Castillo, the dissolution of the Congress and early presidential elections.
Becan Quispe Garfias, 18, and a 15-year-old adolescent died in the demonstrations due to police repression. Both were shot. On Monday, December 12, the Ministry of Health confirmed another two deaths, totaling four fatalities. Additionally, the Ministry stated that eight people are hospitalized, while 30 medical discharges have been reported.
The protests are not subsiding. They are reflected in the seizure of local airports, roadblocks, fires at police stations and marches by community members who have already announced that they will arrive in Lima this week to defend President Castillo.
In response to the mobilizations, Minister of Defense Alberto Otárola announced the dismissal of several regional officials appointed by Castillo, whom he accused of encouraging the protests of the last few days. This type of decision is common in de facto governments.
With the number of victims on the rise, Boluarte announced that she will present an initiative to Congress for elections to take place in April 2024 instead of 2026.
“In the next few days, I will submit a bill to bring forward elections, to be agreed upon by the political forces represented in Parliament,” said the de facto president at dawn this Monday.
On Wednesday, December 7, when she was appointed as President by a Congress that had already been dismissed, Boluarte assured that she would fulfill the mandate for which this Government had been elected, that is, until July 2026.
However, there has been intense pressure, and there are no conditions for her to remain in office, so Congress will debate the advancement of the presidential elections next Wednesday. This is according to the coup plotters’ road map, but social unrest was exacerbated rather than eased after this last move by Boluarte.
Boluarte’s problem is that, in both Congress and the streets, the clamor is for elections to be held in the first months of 2023. Most importantly, protesters are calling for the release of President Castillo and the dissolution of Congress, which was democratically elected by millions of Peruvians.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has insisted on offering Castillo asylum. He—among many other regional leaders—considers Castillo a victim of political persecution, denouncing what happened in Peru as a “soft coup” by the right-wing opposition.
“Since he won, legally and legitimately, Pedro Castillo was the victim of harassment, of confrontation. His adversaries, especially the country’s economic and political elites, did not accept the fact that he governed, among other things, and that is what saddens me the most,” said López Obrador last Thursday, December 8, when he announced that Castillo was going to the Mexican Embassy in Lima to request asylum. However, the former president was detained before reaching the diplomatic headquarters.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard showed the letter in which Castillo’s lawyer formally requested asylum, arguing that the former president did not commit any criminal offense and, on the contrary, suffered a climate of “extreme defenselessness” and “persecution.”
The statements made by the Mexican government, which intends to emulate the refuge granted to Evo Morales in 2019 when he suffered a coup d’état in Bolivia, are rejected by the opposition sectors in Peru, criticizing what is considered undue interventionism by part of López Obrador.
For this reason, the Peruvian Foreign Ministry summoned the Mexican ambassador, Pablo Monroy, to express its “astonishment” at the Mexican president’s statements.
For Castillo, going to Mexico is so far the only chance to avoid a trial that could result in harsh sentences.
On Wednesday, he will complete the seven days of provisional arrest that were issued to him when he was arrested and accused of the crimes of “rebellion” and “conspiracy” on December 7. Yet, it is expected that the detention will be extended since Congress withdrew the special jurisdiction he enjoyed over the weekend, opening the door for a criminal trial.
Controversial statements have been made in Castillo’s defense, such as that of another of his lawyers, Guillermo Olivera Díaz, who said that the former president was drugged with a substance, causing him to involuntarily read the message in which he declared the dissolution of Congress.
“They gave him a drink, allegedly water, and after drinking the water, he felt dazed,” said the lawyer. “Everyone has seen that he was reading shakily; he was a bit dazed, the instigators are deceiving.”
Congressman Guido Bellido, who was one of the presidents of Castillo’s Council of Ministers, supported this theory and stated that whoever “manipulated” the former president did so knowing that it would result in his dismissal.
But the majority of the Peruvian people on the streets demanding Castillo’s release and the dissolution of Congress, along with many legal experts, agreed that Castillo’s announcement was constitutional following Article 134 of the Peruvian Constitution that allows the President to dissolve the Congress.
UN condemns death of protesters
On Sunday, December 11, Telesur reported that the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Peru condemned the deaths of the two protesters in the city of Andahuaylas, Apurimac region.
Hacemos un llamado a realizar una investigación pronta, imparcial y exhaustiva de los hechos, brindando acceso a la justicia a los familiares de las víctimas. https://t.co/NJQanzxDjZ
— Misión OACNUDH Perú (@OACNUDHPeru) December 12, 2022
Before knowing the death toll, the office urged for “calm” and respect for human rights, calling for the escalation of tensions to be avoided. “We reiterate that the right to peaceful assembly must be guaranteed,” said a statement released by the UN mission in Peru on social media.
(RT) with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
- orinocotribunehttps://orinocotribune.com/author/orinocotribune/February 20, 2024