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Peru’s President Arrested on Coup Charges

National

Pedro Castillo | Image by Getty Images

Peru has a new president today, one day after the previous president, Pedro Castillo, was arrested for instigating what his successor described as an “attempted coup.”

Castillo was detained by police on Wednesday shortly after his call for the dissolution of Congress and the installation of an emergency government, according to The New York Times.

“We have taken the decision to establish an emergency government, to reestablish the rule of law and democracy to which effect the following measures are dictated: to dissolve Congress temporarily, to install a government of exceptional emergency, to call to the shortest term possible to elections for a new Congress with the ability to draft a new Constitution,” Castillo said on Wednesday.

Castillo also attempted to draft a new constitution just hours before Congress was set to vote on his impeachment. Congress had scheduled the impeachment trial last week, citing “moral incapacity” to govern, according to CNBC.

In addition, President Castillo tried to impose an immediate national curfew and called for all citizens to give up illegal firearms. His recent moves have prompted the resignation of much of his government.

A joint statement from Peru’s armed forces and police said Castillo did not have the legal authority to carry out his decree and they would not support him, according to The New York Times.

The U.S. also made clear that it did not support Castillo’s actions.

“The United States emphatically urges President Castillo to reverse his attempt to close Congress and allow democratic institutions in Peru to work according to the constitution,” the U.S. embassy in Lima, Peru, said in a tweet. “We encourage the Peruvian public to stay calm during this uncertain time.”

Lawmakers in Peru promptly ignored Castillo’s decrees and proceeded with the previously planned impeachment, voting 101-6 in favor of impeachment and removal from office, with 10 members abstaining, according to CNBC.

After Castillo’s arrest, Vice President Dina Boluarte was sworn in as president, becoming the country’s first female president and its sixth president in the last six years. Castillo is now in prison, facing charges of corruption and human rights abuses.

Since taking office in July of 2021, Castillo’s tenure has been plagued by corruption scandals, criminal investigations, and political upheaval. Prosecutors have accused him of leading a criminal organization with lawmakers and family members, profiting off government contracts, and repeatedly obstructing justice.

Last month, he threatened to dissolve Congress, and local media outlets reported that he gauged support for his intended moves by surveying military leaders, according to the NYT.

Castillo also saw plenty of turnover during his time in power, running through more than 80 ministers and subsequently filling many jobs with political allies, many of whom lacked relevant experience and some of whom faced investigations for corruption, domestic violence, and murder, according to The New York Times.

On Tuesday, the head of Peru’s army resigned, citing personal reasons.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Castillo said the impeachment trial was part of the same effort to keep him from governing that has stifled him since his victory over Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, who led a campaign to overturn election results based on claims of fraud.

“Throughout the 17 months of my administration, a certain sector of Congress has focused solely on removing me from office because they never accepted the results of an election that you, dear Peruvians, defined with your votes,” Castillo said.

“I’m not corrupt. I’m a man from the countryside who has been paying the mistakes for his inexperience but has never committed a crime.”

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Castillo called him on Wednesday seeking asylum shortly before he was arrested, according to Reuters.

The Peruvian sol has remained relatively stable amid the recent turmoil, falling just 1% against the U.S. dollar. It is one of the few emerging market currencies with gains against the USD this year, according to Reuters.

“Peru’s financial markets will suffer but won’t collapse, thanks mainly to solid domestic fundamentals,” said Andres Abadia at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

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