What to Know About the Political Turmoil in Peru

Peru has been rocked in recent years by political instability, the rapid change of presidents, and a steady stream of scandals and investigations. But Wednesday was perhaps one of the most tumultuous days in the country’s recent history.

Congress was scheduled to vote in the afternoon on whether to impeach President Pedro Castillo on corruption charges. However, the president, seeking to block the vote, announced the dissolution of Parliament and the formation of an emergency government, acting quickly and widely condemned as a coup attempt.

The move shocked even the president’s allies, and by the end of the day, Mr dismissed and arrested. Dina Boluarte, his vice president, becomes president, first woman to lead Peru.

The political tragedy is the latest challenge to the country’s nascent democracy, but perhaps it’s also a sign of its resilience.

Here’s what we know so far.

Mr. Castillo, 53, elected president last year, was born into an illiterate farming family. in an impoverished rural area with no drainage system and no access to health care and schools.

Even after Mr. Castillo became a teacher, he still worked as a farmer to earn extra income. He became a union activist, helping organize a strike for better pay for teachers.

Mr. Castillo, a socialist, appealed to voters frustrated with the political establishment.

He campaigned with the slogan “No more poor in a rich country” and with the promise of improving the country’s economy and reduce its chronic inequality. According to Hugo Nopo, a senior economist at the World Bank, high poverty rates have also worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, increasing by around 10%, one of the sharpest increases not only in Latin America but across the globe. world.

But despite portraying himself as a complete escape from the country’s corrupt past, he quickly became embroiled in scandals and failed to keep many of his promises.

For years, Peru has been plagued by political corruption that has resulted in six presidents since 2016. Mr. Castillo’s tenure has only exacerbated feelings of political dysfunction.

He named five different cabinets and took a look at more than 80 ministers, some of whom lack relevant skills or experience and face investigations related to corruption, domestic violence and killing.

Mr. Castillo himself is the target of six criminal investigations, including allegations that he led a criminal organization to profit from government contracts and claims that he repeatedly obstructed Justice.

He denies the allegations, and some of his supporters say he is the victim of a concerted effort to reinvigorate the former ruling elite.

Congress had tried to impeach Mr. Castillo twice before, and a third vote was scheduled after he previously threatened to dissolve the agency.

Immediately after Mr. Castillo announced his decision to Congress in a nationally televised address, it became clear that his bid to effectively seize power did not receive much support.

The armed forces and police have rejected Mr. Castillo’s move, top government officials have resigned in succession, law experts have called his efforts illegitimate, and even his former personal lawyer. The president also punished him. The United States also joined the chorus of dissent.

Two hours after Castillo’s announcement, Congress voted to impeach him, with 101 lawmakers in favor of his removal, six against and 10 abstaining.

Mr Castillo was seen Wednesday afternoon on television images leaving the presidential palace in a car that later entered a police station. While he was held there, Boluarte was sworn in as the new leader of Peru.

Then on Wednesday, the prosecutor’s office said it had ordered his arrest on the charge of “sedition.” Police said he was being held at a naval base on the outskirts of Lima.

Boluarte, 60, is a former lawyer who was a member of a Marxist political party until she was disqualified last year after criticizing the party’s leadership.

Boluarte is from a rural part of Peru, and she ran against Mr. Castillo last year, serving as his vice president and minister of development and social inclusion. She resigned as minister last month, after Mr. Castillo formed his most recent cabinet.

“I come from the deep land; I was born and raised in a small town in Peru,” Boluarte said after taking the oath of office, referring to Chalhuanca, Apurímac, her hometown, high in the Andes. “I am the youngest daughter in a large family, a family living in a precarious situation.”

The turmoil in Peru mirrors similar patterns across South America, with democracies plagued by poverty, inequality and corruption being challenged by rising populism and the general distrust of political elites.

And likewise in other countries, including Brazil and Colombia, Peru’s democracy, though fragile, has proved resilient. Some leftist leaders in the region have criticized Mr. Castillo’s actions.

US Ambassador to Peru, Lisa Kenna, in an interview on Thursday, called the response to Mr. Castillo’s attempt to dissolve Congress a “victory for democracy in Peru.”

José Carlos Requena, a Peruvian political analyst, wrote in el Comercioa Peruvian newspaper, that Congress “was able to provide a constitutional channel to resolve the difficulty.”

However, some experts cautioned against celebrating the institutional victory, arguing that Castillo’s failed attempt to take power was more likely due to his inability to arouse support than to the strength of the government. democratic standards.

Much will depend on how Ms Boluarte’s government navigates the country’s economic and political challenges.

Roxana Barrantes, a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, said: “Since the new president was sworn in, there has been a kind of relief, of calm, but that calm can last in times of time. short time.

After Boluarte took office, small protests broke out in the capital, Lima, and in other parts of the country. They intensified over the weekend with protesters and the National Police clashing at a regional airport in the Andes, where two people were killed.

The protesters, some of whom are supporters of Mr. Castillo, requested the closure of the National Assembly, drafted a new Constitution and new elections will be held. Some are also demanding the release of Mr. Castillo.

Boluarte, who spent most of her first days in office swearing in new cabinet members, has called for early elections in 2024, two years ahead of schedule.

April 2024 is considered by many legal experts to be the earliest general election that can be held as the executive and legislative branches must pass constitutional reforms to create a legal path to an end. their duties early, and at the same time give the electoral authorities time to hold their votes.

A quarter of Peru’s 33 million people live in poverty. The United Nations in November warned that the country has the highest rates of food insecurity in South America, with half of the population lacking regular access to adequate nutrition.

“The most important challenge is shared prosperity,” said Mr. Nopo, an economist at the World Bank. “We are a country characterized by good macro stability, but it still has serious challenges in making this macro-wealth as inclusive as it should be.”

The pandemic and war in Ukraine have contributed to rising prices of basic goods and other essential products, including fertilizers, sparking widespread protests.

Mining, a vital part of the economy, has been the driving force behind the country’s growth over the past two decades, but it is also a major source of pollution and a contributor to climate change.

Chronic corruption has affected the highest levels of power. Three presidents in recent years have been removed from office following corruption allegations.

Mr. Castillo is the sixth former president to face a prison sentence this century: Alberto Fujimori is serving a prison sentence; Ollanta Humala and his wife spent 9 months in prison; Pedro Pablo Kuczynski spent three years house arrest; Alan Garcia death by suicide moments before a prosecutor arrives at the house to arrest him; and Alejandro Toledo is awaiting extradition from the United States to face corruption charges.

The rapid succession of presidents is also a symptom of institutional instability, and Congress is one of the least trusted institutions in the country, according to the report. a recent poll.

Mr. Castillo’s efforts to dissolve Congress have echoes of the past.

Thirty-two years ago, Mr. Fujimori, another anti-establishment outsider, was elected president. He came to power as hyperinflation ravaged the Peruvian economy and leftist rebel groups waged terror campaigns that left tens of thousands of people dead.

Two years after his election, Mr. Fujimori staged a military-backed coup, suspended the Constitution and ruled as a dictator.

During the government’s counterinsurgency campaign, dozens of civilians died in extrajudicial killings at the hands of death squads that prosecutors say Mr. Fujimori created.

In 1995, he was re-elected and restored to democracy, but his government was increasingly criticized and accused of continuing to massacre civilians and corrupt. He resigned in 2000.

In 2009, Mr. Fujimori received a Sentenced to 25 years in prison for human rights violations.

His daughter Keiko Fujimori narrowly lost to Castillo in last year’s presidential election.

Elda Cantu contribution report.


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