Lima, Dec 7 (EFE).- President Pedro Castillo announced Wednesday the closing of Peru’s Congress and the institution of emergency rule as opposition lawmakers prepared for yet another attempt to oust the leftist head of state.
“The following measures are ordered: temporarily dissolve the Congress of the Republic and install a government of exceptional emergency,” Castillo said in a hastily arranged televised address.
His hands visibly shaking, the president went on to direct officials to expedite arrangements to elect “a new Congress with constituent powers to draft a new constitution within a period of no more than nine months.”
A nationwide curfew will take effect at 10:00 pm Wednesday, Castillo said.
Along with elections to choose a new legislature, he proclaimed a reorganization of the entire judiciary and of the Attorney General’s Office.
“All of those who possess an illegal weapon must surrender it to the National Police within 72 hours,” the president said, adding that anyone with an unlicensed gun who fails to hand it over will face jail.
The 53-year-old former schoolteacher concluded with an appeal to institutions of civil society, members of rural militias that date from the 1980-2000 armed conflict “and all social sectors” to come out in defense of the measures announced Wednesday. EFE Four members of Castillo’s Cabinet as well as Peru’s ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) resigned in the wake of the president’s speech.
The ministers of economy, Kurt Burneo; foreign affairs, Cesar Landa; and labor, Alejandro Salas, said in a joint statement that they were quitting in obedience to “democratic values.”
Justice Minister Felix Chero said that he was stepping down out of “respect for democratic institutionalism.”
Benji Espinoza, an attorney who has represented the president in connection with congressional attempts to remove and a criminal case for corruption brought by AG Office, said Wednesday that he was severing his ties with Castillo.
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum denounced Castillo’s move as a coup.
“It’s clearly a coup in the style of the one in ’92,” leftist legislator Ruth Luque said, referring to then-President Alberto Fujimori’s “self-coup” of 1992, which likewise entailed the dissolution of Congress.
“Of course it’s a coup d’etat,” former navy Adm. Jose Cueto, now a rightist congressman, said, predicting that the armed forces will support Congress against the president.
Another lawmaker on the right, Norma Yarrow, said that Castillo “is alone in his office” and called on Vice President Dina Boluarte to appear before Congress to assume the presidency.
Boluarte, in her first public reaction to the announcement, also characterized Castillo’s action as a coup.
The leaders of the party blocs in Congress said that the legislature will convene Wednesday to remove Castillo and formally request support from the armed forces.
Peruvian media outlets said there was no sign of unusual military activity on Wednesday, apart from an apparent emergency meeting of the joint chiefs at their headquarters in Lima.
Castillo had no previous political experience when he ran for president. He prevailed narrowly over right-winger Keiko Fujimori – daughter of the imprisoned Alberto Fujimori – in a runoff and has been under constant pressure from Congress and the judiciary since taking office in July 2021. EFE gdl-csr/dr