Conflicts & War

Peru’s Castillo blames successor for protesters’ deaths

Lima, Dec 13 (EFE).- Deposed President Pedro Castillo said Tuesday that his detention on charges of rebellion is unjust and arbitrary and blamed Peru’s new head of state, Dina Boluarte, for the deaths of seven people in protests against his ouster.

“I am not a thief, a rapist, corrupt, or a murderer,” he said be video-link from prison during a Supreme Court hearing on the habeas corpus motion filed by his lawyers.

Castillo, a former schoolteacher who won election last year on the ticket of a small leftist party, Peru Libre, has been in custody since last Wednesday after seeking to dissolve Congress and convene elections for an assembly to draft a new constitution.

He took that drastic step just as the opposition-controlled Congress was about to start a third round of impeachment proceedings against him for alleged corruption.

Multiple members of Castillo’s Cabinet resigned and then-Vice President Boluarte echoed lawmakers in labeling the move a coup.

Congress voted to remove Castillo for “permanent moral incapacity” and installed Boluarte as the new president.

The ousted president’s own security detail arrested him and took him to police headquarters in Lima, short-circuiting Castillo’s plan to request asylum at the Mexican Embassy.

After listening to the arguments of prosecutors and defense attorneys, Supreme Court Justice Cesar San Martin asked Castillo if he had “something to add.”

Directing his remarks to the nation, Castillo thanked the Peruvians who have been protesting his removal for their efforts.

“I will never renounce, nor abandon, this people’s cause that has brought me here,” he said, urging the military and the police “to put down their weapons and stop killing these people thirsty for justice.”

In comments to reporters following the hearing, defense attorney Ronald Atencio read aloud from a letter his client addressed to Boluarte: “Madam Dina, look at the place you occupy. I hold you and the entire circle that accompanies you responsible for the ferocious attack on my compatriots.”

By mid-afternoon, when San Martin announced that the Supreme Court had rejected the motion asking for Castillo’s release, two leftist lawmakers Sigrid Bazan and Ruth Luque presented a bill to censure Boluarte’s prime minister, former prosecutor Pedro Angulo, for the “disproportionate repression” of protests.

Bazan, who voted in favor of deposing Castillo, said that “repression and death cannot, and should not, be the response to protests.”

The Boluarte administration declared a state of emergency early Monday in the southern region of Apurimac, hours before the new president proposed moving up the elections – currently set for 2026 – to 2024.

“Far from assuring the preservation and integrity of all citizens, (the government) appears to be focused on repressing at all costs the mobilizations that are happening in various parts of our country, which goes against the basic principles on which democracy is based,” Bazan and Luque wrote.

During the course of Tuesday, Boluarte ordered the army and police to refrain from the use of deadly force against demonstrators.

Though Apurimac is the epicenter of the uprising, pro-Castillo militants attacked the Attorney General’s Office and two Lima television stations on Monday.

Early Tuesday, authorities announced the shutdown of the international airport in the southern city of Cuzco and train service to the nearby Inca citadel of Machu Picchu – Peru’s leading tourist attraction – due to the possibility of unrest in the area.

Separately, natural gas distribution company TGP said Tuesday that protesters occupied a compression plant in Cuzco province.

Castillo, 53, had no previous experience of public office when he ran for president and narrowly won in a runoff against rightist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori.

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