Amid a constitutional crisis, Peru was sworn in as a new president

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s Congress has impeached President Pedro Castillo Replaced him as vice president on Wednesday, Castillo ordered the dissolution of the legislature ahead of a planned vote to oust him.

Castillo’s move to dissolve Congress has been called a coup by the Office of the National Ombudsman, the Constitutional Tribunal and the Supreme Court, though at least one expert disagrees.

Peru’s Congress has the ability to remove the president and the president has the ability to dissolve Congress, so “technically, it’s not a coup,” said Eduardo Camarra, a professor of political science and international relations at Florida International University.

“There is confusion in the 15,000 descriptions that exist about who is Congress or the president,” he said. The winner will be the most powerful, he said.

Lawmakers voted 101-6 to remove Castillo from office on grounds of “permanent moral incapacity.”

Castillo left the presidential palace in an automobile that took him through Lima’s historic downtown, then entered a police station, where his condition was not immediately known. In a photo circulated by the National Police on Twitter, which has since been deleted, Castillo was seen sitting inside the station surrounded by officers.

Just before the vote, Castillo announced the establishment of a new emergency government and called on the next round of lawmakers to draft a new constitution for the Andean nation. He said during a televised address that he would rule by decree in the meantime, and ordered a night curfew from Wednesday night.

Castillo also announced changes to the leadership of the judiciary, the police and the Constitutional Court. The head of Peru’s military later resigned along with four ministers, including foreign affairs and the economy.

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Castillo’s move comes as his opponents in Congress move toward a third attempt to oust him from office.

The Office of the Ombudsman, an autonomous government agency, said before the congressional vote that Castillo should resign and hand himself over to judicial authorities. After years of democracy, Peru is in the midst of a constitutional collapse “that cannot be called a coup,” the report said.

“Mr. Castillo is not only an elected president, but the people must remember elected representatives for public service,” the statement said. “Castillo’s actions ignore the will of the people and are invalid.”

A congressional vote called for Vice President Tina Bolvarde to become president. Via Twitter, Pollarde rejected Castillo’s actions, saying it “exacerbates the political and institutional crisis that Peruvian society must overcome through strict adherence to the law.”

Boluiarte, a 60-year-old lawyer, is Peru’s first woman president in more than 200 years as an independent republic. Bilingual in Spanish and Quechua, he was on the same ticket when voters elected Castillo in July 2021. He also served as Minister of Development and Social Inclusion.

Peru’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Police rejected the constitutionality of Castillo’s dissolution of Congress in a statement.

The international reaction sometimes exceeded the events.

United States Amp. Lisa Kenna called on Castillo via Twitter to reverse his order to dissolve Congress, saying the US government rejected any “extra-constitutional” actions by the president to interfere with Congress.

Congress voted to remove Castillo a short time later.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard announced on Twitter that Mexico has decided to postpone the Pacific Alliance summit scheduled for December 14 in Lima in light of recent events in Peru. He said he regretted the recent developments and demanded respect for democracy and human rights.

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Chile and Spain also took a neutral position. The administration of Chilean President Gabriel Boric lamented the political situation in Peru and hoped that the crisis would be resolved through democratic means.

Spain’s government strongly condemned the breakdown of constitutional order and congratulated itself on its democratic self-correction.

“I will never tarnish the good name of my honest and exemplary parents who are loved by millions of Peruvians,” Castillo said in an unusual midnight speech on state television ahead of the vote.

The farmer-turned-president said he would pay for mistakes made due to inexperience. But, he said, a certain section of the Congress “has its sole agenda to remove me from office because they have never accepted the results of an election that was decided by your votes.”

Castillo has denied the corruption charges against him, saying they were “based on hearsay reports of people who abused my trust and sought to reduce their own sentences for crimes.”

Federal prosecutors are investigating six cases against Castillo, most of them for corruption, under the theory that he used his power to profit from public works.

A power struggle continues in Peru’s capital as the Andes and its thousands of small farms struggle to survive the worst drought in half a century. Without rain, farmers can’t grow potatoes, and dying grass can no longer support sheep, alpacas, vicunas, and llamas. To make matters worse, bird flu has killed at least 18,000 seabirds and affected at least one poultry producer, endangering chickens and turkeys raised for traditional holiday meals.

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Last week, the government also confirmed that the country has experienced a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections. Since the pandemic began, 4.3 million Peruvians have been infected, of whom 217,000 have died.

Castillo, the first president in the country’s history to come from a poor farming community, came to the presidency last year without any political experience. He reshuffled his cabinet five times in his one-and-a-half years in office, passing through 60 different cabinet officials and shutting down various government agencies.

Although Castillo is the first president to be investigated while in office, the probes are not surprising in a country where nearly every former president in the past 40 years has been accused of corruption linked to multinationals such as Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Since 2016, Peru has been embroiled in political crises, with Congress and presidents trying to oust each other. President Martín Vizcarra (2018–2020) dissolved Congress and ordered new elections in 2019. That new legislature abolished Vizcarra the following year. Then came President Manuel Merino, who within a week of a crackdown killed two protesters and injured 200 others. His successor, Francisco Sacasti, lasted nine months before Castillo took over.

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