Peru president blasts letter calling on military to reject election result

Lima, Jun 18 (EFE).- Peru’s interim head of state on Friday condemned a letter penned by a group of retired military officers that urges the armed forces not to recognize the apparent victory of leftist political outsider Pedro Castillo in the June 6 presidential runoff, saying they are effectively advocating for a coup.

Francisco Sagasti, joined by Prime Minister Violeta Bermudez and Defense Minister Nuria Esparch, said in a nationally broadcast televised address that the letter disseminated Thursday night is now under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office.

“It’s unacceptable for a group of people retired from the armed forces to try to incite the top military brass to violate the rule of law,” Sagasti said.

“I reject these types of missives that not only run counter to democratic values and institutions but also conflict with our constitution and laws,” the interim president added.

“In a democracy the armed forces don’t make these decisions,” Sagasti said. “They’re absolutely neutral and scrupulously respectful of the constitution.”

“It’s taken us a lot of time and effort to build our democratic institutions over the course of our 200 turbulent years as a republic. Let’s not put them at risk,” Sagasti cautioned.

“As supreme commander of the armed forces and the National Police, I guarantee their neutrality and demand that it be respected. I urge citizens to remain calm in the difficult moments we’re experiencing just a few days before commemorating the bicentennial of our independence,” he said.

The letter by the retired military officers was addressed to the head of the joint command of Peru’s armed forces and the senior commanders of the army, navy and air force.

Sagasti said the missive only contained one signature but included a list of hundreds of names that supposedly supported the message contained therein, although several of those names, according to local media, were ex-military officers who are already deceased.

Pointing to right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori’s allegations of “systemic fraud” in this month’s runoff, the letter urges the top military brass not to recognize Castillo – a little-known rural schoolteacher and trade unionist – as president-elect.

Fujimori, a prominent former lawmaker and ex-first lady, has not provided hard evidence to support her claims.

With 100 percent of the ballots counted, Castillo received 50.12 percent of the vote and Fujimori garnered 49.87 percent, a margin of victory of just 44,058 votes.

But the leftist candidate has not been officially declared the winner due to appeals filed by Fujimori in a bid to annul 200,000 votes cast in rural, highland areas that overwhelmingly support Castillo.

The Organization of American States, which sent an election observation mission to the country, says there were no “serious irregularities” in the runoff.

Even so, the letter said that if Castillo is declared the winner “we would have an illegal and illegitimately proclaimed president.”

It also advises the pro-Fujimori forces to seek a “democratic solution” via Congress, which removed a popular president from office last November.

Separately, a lawmaker-elect of the right-wing Popular Renewal party, retired navy Adm. Jorge Montoya, recommended this week that the newly elected Congress that takes office on July 28 call new elections if no winner has been officially declared by that date.

There is no basis for that proposal, however, under Peruvian law. EFE


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