Peru has a female president for the first time. After Congress deposed the previous President Pedro Castillo on Wednesday evening, the previous Vice President Dina Boluarte took over the office. Shortly after the vote in Congress, the 60-year-old lawyer and politician was sworn into her new office. She was aware of her “enormous responsibility,” said Boluarte. Their first task is to demand the greatest possible unity of all Peruvians. A “political truce” is needed to form a government of national unity.
Castillo, who was criticized for allegations of abuse of power and corruption, managed to escape dismissal twice. It was Castillo’s own fault that the third move of this kind met with little resistance in Congress this Wednesday. A few hours before the planned vote, Castillo had addressed the nation with trembling hands and declared that he would dissolve Congress and declare an emergency government. Castillo also announced a “reorganization” of the judiciary, new elections and a new constitution. “Congress has destroyed the rule of law, democracy and the balance of government powers,” Castillo said.
Many things reminded of April 5, 1992. It was the day when the then President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, dissolved the congress in a self-coup, intervened in the judiciary, suspended the constitution and declared an emergency government. Fujimori then ruled in an authoritarian manner until November 2000, when he left the country after his second re-election amid allegations of fraud and corruption. Thirty years ago, Fujimori got away with his self-coup for two reasons: not only did he have the army on his side, he also had the majority of Peruvians on his side.
Own party distanced itself from Castillo
Castillo, on the other hand, was alone in his attempt to overturn the constitution and state authorities. How alone was shown after his speech. Not only the security forces, the judiciary and the people’s representatives in Congress spoke of a coup d’etat, but also their own government. One minister after another resigned after Castillo’s advance. From the end, even Castillo’s left-wing party “Perú Libre” distanced itself from the solo effort of its president. Castillo could not count on the population either. According to surveys, 70 percent had recently spoken out against Castillo.
Congress convened a little later as planned and unseated Castillo by a vote of 101 to 6 with 10 abstentions. After the vote, MPs erupted in cheers. Shortly thereafter, the Peruvian National Police posted a picture of Castillo on Twitter showing him inside a police station. She “intervened” in accordance with her duties, the police said. Local media reported that he was questioned by prosecutors. Rumors had previously circulated that Castillo and his family might have fled to a foreign embassy. It is unclear what punishment the former president faces.
Castillo’s move was unconstitutional. In Peru, the President has the right to dissolve the Peruvian legislature and call new elections, but only if two consecutive votes of no confidence are passed against the government. This situation did not exist. Castillo’s failed self-coup was not only sharply criticized in Peru itself, but also abroad by several members of the Organization of American States (OAS), which held an extraordinary session on Wednesday.
Six presidents in six years
Castillo, a farmer’s son, former teacher and trade unionist from the Andean region, surprisingly made it into the runoff in last year’s elections, defeating the influential conservative politician Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the former president. His tenure so far has been marked by a constant power struggle between the government and the opposition Congress. During this time, Castillo has filled more than 60 ministerial posts. Political opponents but also numerous analysts accused him of improvising and not being up to the task. In recent months, allegations of abuse of power and corruption against Castillo and several family members and close allies have mounted. There were also several indictments against the President.
By deposing Castillo, Peru has defended its institutions and fended off a coup d’etat. But the political crisis in the country, which has been ruled by six presidents over the past six years, remains. Observers assume that Castillo’s successor, Boluarte, who is also left-leaning, will initially enjoy the backing of Congress. However, unless it builds a strong coalition to govern the country and address Peru’s many problems, political instability will persist. Sooner or later, this could lead to Peruvians calling for saviors – including those who think less of democracy. Polls show that support for democracy in Peru has declined more than in other countries in the region in recent years.
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