Peru’s Castillo faces criminal charges as new president Boluarte takes helm

Peru’s former President Pedro Castillo was held in his first court hearing. He was being charged with rebellion and conspiracy. His successor, however, issued her first pronouncements from his presidential palace.

After Castillo’s failed attempt to rule through decree and dissolve Congress, lawmakers swiftly removed him from power. This was to avoid another impeachment vote.

In recent years, the Andean country has been plagued by political instability. Five presidents have failed to fulfill their terms in the past five years.

According to prosecutors, Castillo was a former teacher and activist for the union. He won a narrow victory in 2021 thanks to support from indigenous and poor voters. Castillo was also charged with corruption.

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Peruvians protested Castillo’s arrest and voiced their support for Castillo through shouting on Thursday. “The fight has started!” One placard, which was held by a Lima protestor, said “Free Castillo!” Other small demonstrations led to clashes with police who used tear gas.

Castillo was placed under arrest for seven days while the investigation into the claim that he organized a rebellion continues.

Victor Perez, Castillo’s lawyer, refuted the accusation, arguing that such a statement implies violence and weapons use, which he claimed never happened. His client’s arrest was called “illegal” by Perez.

Castillo’s Thursday claim of arbitrarily detained was dismissed by a constitutional court, which ruled that the police acted in a proper manner when he was arrested.

The hearing was teleconferenced by the former president from Lima’s penitentiary centre, where he is currently being held. He declined to address the court when he was asked.

According to Mexico’s foreign minister, Castillo has applied for asylum in Mexico. The Mexican and Peruvian authorities have been in contact over the request. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Mexican president, has indicated that he is open to giving asylum to Castillo (a fellow leftist).

The 17-month tenure of the 53-year-old Castillo was marked by unprecedented turnover among his ministers, as well as multiple corruption scandals which he dismissed as politically motivated efforts by right-wing members of the opposition-controlled Congress set on undermining his government.

BOLUARTE ANNOUNCES OFFICE

Castillo’s vice-president Dina Boluarte was sworn into office Wednesday as the new president of South America. This makes her the sixth president in just five years, and the first woman president of the country with 33 million people.

Boluarte (60) has not yet spoken but will likely begin to name a new cabinet in the coming days. There are high expectations that Boluarte will choose a unity government.

Peru is the second-largest producer of copper in the world. Despite political turmoil, Peru held the title as Latin America’s fastest-growing economy for the past decade. However, there are signs that the country’s economic growth may be slowing.

Boluarte made brief remarks to reporters at the presidential Palace on Thursday morning. She suggested that early elections might be democratically respectable, but she said she would prefer to have further talks first without giving details.

Fresh elections could help Boluarte soothe pockets of public anger over democratically-elected Castillo’s removal and present detention.

Boluarte is not our President! Let the people elect her. Then I will recognize her,” Sonia Castaneda said at a protest in the capital.

The new president expressed optimism that the original plan for the regional Pacific Alliance summit in Lima next week, which was to be held with Colombia and Chile, can still be salvaged.

She stated, “Relations must continue with the countries in the region,” and expressed her hope that Lopez Obrador would appear.

She said, “We are going wait for him here with open arms.”