Vertigo in Peru: the bitter end of Pedro Castillo

The presidential dream in Peru of the rural teacher Pedro Castillo It has lasted less than a year and a half. Victim of his own mistakes and, above all, of the harassment and demolition of the parliamentary right and the Lima oligarchy, the president fell yesterday into the black hole of Peruvian politics that has prevented, for at least five years, the governability of the country.

Abandoned by ministers and fellow party members, the president who ran for election with the label of progressive decreed the closure of a Congress that had planned to debate a political trial against him. The Constitutional Court described the maneuver as “coup” and Castillo was removed and arrested. His number two in the government, Dina Boluartehas been sworn in as president and will be the first woman to govern in Peru.

The vice president of Peru, Dina Boluarte, after being elected internal president by the country’s Congress, after the dismissal of Pedro Castillo, in Lima. Sebastian Castaneda / REUTERS

Yesterday’s day was vertiginous in Lime. At some point in the afternoon, Castillo would surely miss the calm of his native San Luis de Puña, in the Cajamarca region. In the Peruvian capital, on the other hand, events were happening relentlessly. Congress was scheduled to discuss in the early afternoon a new presidential “vacancy”, a kind of express impeachment of the president who emerged from the polls. It was the third time that the opposition tried to remove Castillo under the rancid formula of “permanent moral incapacity.” The two previous attempts, the last one in March, had failed.

Castillo, who was sworn in in July 2021 after defeating the far-right Keiko Fujimori in the second round of that year’s elections, had been walking the wire for several weeks. The National Prosecutor, Patricia Benavides, filed a constitutional complaint against the president for criminal association in mid-October after investigations involving him in corruption cases. The opposition once again speculated and waited for its moment. One day before the political trial in Congress, the parliamentary groups that supported the removal counted the beans and did not reach the magic number of 87 votes, the two-thirds of Congress needed to remove the president.

Ousted Peruvian President Pedro Castillo sits next to former Prime Minister Anibal Torres as he appears before anti-corruption prosecutors at the Attorney General's office in Lima.  REUTERS
Ousted Peruvian President Pedro Castillo sits next to former Prime Minister Anibal Torres as he appears before anti-corruption prosecutors at the Attorney General’s office in Lima. REUTERS

in the atomized Peruvian Congress, with 13 parliamentary groups, party discipline is usually conspicuous by its absence when things get ugly. Everyone wants to preserve their seat and for this, the infidelity of the vote is just one more resource. If Castillo’s popularity was low, it is still below that of the devalued Peruvian Parliament in the eyes of the public. At some point yesterday morning, the accounts began to add up in the ranks of the opposition.

Castillo had to go to Congress to defend himself before the debate and voting began. When he assumed that his die was cast, he again made another mistake: ordering the closure of Parliament, a maneuver reminiscent of the self hit of Alberto Fujimori in 1992, although the political context and the political and human profile of both leaders do not allow any comparison.

Abandoned by several of his ministers, the military commanders and by his own party, Peru Libre, the announcement of an emergency government and a remodeling of the judicial system, including a curfew, was already a defective cartridge whose noise reverberated in Congress and accelerated events. He was removed with the votes not of 87 but of 101 congressmen, a more than enough majority that demonstrated the loneliness of the rural teacher, arrested shortly after in the Lima prefecture.

An injured protester among the police officers stationed outside the Lima Prefecture, while the ousted president Pedro Castillo declared.  REUTERS/Alessandro Cinque
An injured protester among the police officers stationed outside the Prefecture of Lima, while the deposed president Pedro Castillo declared. Alessandro Cinque / REUTERS

The Castillo government was always a broken toy. His promise to reduce poverty in the country remained a dead letter due to external and internal conditioning. His political inexperience played tricks on him. He appointed 80 ministers and changed the cabinet five times. The accusations of corruption against his family circle and against himself grew and took shape as time went by. The justice system had been investigating for some time an alleged illicit enrichment of the president associated with the awarding of public contracts.

The fall of Castillo does not solve the serious problems that Peru is going through, with five presidents in the last five years. From now on a political abyss opens, or rather the one that already existed widens, with unpredictable consequences. The left has lost a historic opportunity to transform the country. The internal disputes within the ruling party and, above all, the dirty game of a Fujimori right wing eager to return to power at any price, leave the country once again in the hands of political filibustering.

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