By Carla Samon Ros
Lima, Jul 19 (EFE).- A hyper-polarized campaign, a victory by the slimmest of margins and allegations of election fraud presaged a rocky road ahead for Pedro Castillo, who was proclaimed Peru’s president-elect one year ago.
And the nearly 12 months since the leftist head of state took office have been a veritable whirlwind of instability: with four different Cabinets sworn in, two failed impeachment proceedings attempted in Congress and a pair of corruption investigations now under way.
It was July 19, 2021, that Peru’s election authority declared Castillo the winner of the June 6 runoff by a margin of just 44,000 votes over rightist Keiko Fujimori, ex-President Alberto Fujimori’s daughter and political heir.
That five-week span was the longest lapse of the past 40 years, as Fujimorist forces challenged the election results and sought to disqualify some 200,000 votes on the grounds of alleged fraud.
Castillo, a rural schoolteacher and political novice, defied the country’s political status quo by winning the support of sectors of Peruvian society historically relegated to the sidelines.
The opposition warned the union leader would turn the country into “another Venezuela” and collapse the economy and said his Marxist Free Peru party would run the country as a kleptocracy.
But Castillo has been hamstrung by crises that began besieging him even before he took office on July 28 of last year.
The initial fears of a communist and authoritarian takeover have subsided since then, with the head of state even resigning from Free Peru after the party accused him of selling out and pushing through a “neo-liberal” (laissez-faire) economic program.
But in their place suspicions have mounted about the president’s alleged inability to govern.
Castillo has been under attack for the past year by an opposition-led Congress that has launched two failed impeachment attempts and approved censure motions against four of his Cabinet ministers.
In the last action of the outgoing Congress led by conservative Maria del Carmen Alva, that unicameral body approved a report that recommends charges against the president for alleged corruption, a case now in the hands of the Attorney General’s Office.
It now remains to be seen what actions will be taken under new congressional leadership, although the outlook appears grim for an increasingly isolated and weakened head of state.
And the troubles don’t end there for Castillo.
Last Wednesday, the AG’s office announced that it has launched a preliminary investigation into Castillo for alleged irregularities in the promotion of officers within the armed forces and National Police.
Castillo also has been accused by prosecutors of leading a corruption ring within the Transportation Ministry to obtain illegal kickbacks from contracts.
Among those implicated in that corruption case are former Transportation Minister Juan Silva; Castillo’s erstwhile chief of staff, Bruno Pacheco; and a nephew of the president, all of whom are currently fugitives from justice.
And in yet another scandal, Yenifer Paredes, a sister-in-law of the head of state, is being investigated by the AG’s office for alleged influence peddling after a media outlet released a video that appears to show her offering a sanitation project to residents of a community in Castillo’s native province of Chota, located in the northwestern department of Cajamarca.
Paredes’s whereabouts is currently unknown.
Amid the scandals and crises, the opposition has stepped up its calls for Castillo to resign or at least consider proposing early elections.