Lima, Nov 11 (EFE).- The Peruvian legislature’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Accusations on Friday approved a report that calls for leftist President Pedro Castillo to be charged with treason and disqualified from holding public office for five years.
The accusation stems from remarks the head of state made earlier this year indicating his administration may grant landlocked Bolivia a sovereign outlet to the sea.
The subcommittee chaired by opposition lawmaker Lady Camones narrowly approved the report by a vote of 11-10.
The accusation against Castillo will now go to Congress’ Permanent Commission, which must analyze the report in the coming days and decide whether it should be debated and voted on by the entire 130-seat unicameral body.
The president said his administration was unfazed by the ruling.
“(This decision) doesn’t intimidate us. We’re here for the country, because citizens come before everything,” Castillo said after learning of the vote during a meeting at the Government Palace in Lima with representatives of the capital district of San Juan de Lurigancho.
The president sparked controversy when in an interview with CNN in January he expressed support for sea access for Bolivia – a neighboring country whose leftist government is a close ally of Castillo’s administration – and said he would consult with Peruvian citizens on the matter.
“I’m not saying I’m going to give (access to the sea) to Bolivia. If Peruvians are in favor, I’ll defer to the people,” he said then. “I’d never do things the people don’t want.”
Bolivia lost the entirety of its 400 kilometers (250 miles) of coastline and 120,000 square kilometers (about 46,330 square miles) of territory in total to Chile as a consequence of its brief participation in the 1879-1884 War of the Pacific.
That Andean nation, however, says it was not a belligerent in that conflict and that it lost the territory as a result of invasion.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in 2018 that Bolivia cannot force Chile to negotiate sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.
Friday’s vote came a day after police used tear gas against a small group of militants among thousands of supporters of leftist President Pedro Castillo gathered outside Congress to demand the dissolution of the legislature.
Organized by labor unions and grassroots groups, the “taking of Lima” drew Castillo partisans from across the country to the capital to repudiate the actions of the opposition-controlled Congress.
Protesters are also demanding a new constitution and the resignation of Attorney General Patricia Benavides, who last month asked Congress to impeach and remove the president, accused of leading a criminal conspiracy within the government.
Last Saturday, thousands of Peruvians took to the streets of Lima and other cities to call for Castillo’s ouster.
Castillo, 53, was a schoolteacher with no previous political experience when he ran for president. He prevailed narrowly over right-winger Keiko Fujimori – daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori – in a runoff and has been under constant pressure from Congress and the judiciary since taking office in July 2021.