Conflicts & War

Peru’s Castillo feared removal was imminent, lawyer says

By Carla Samon Ros

Lima, Mar 17 (EFE).- Peru’s ousted president, Pedro Castillo, attempted to dissolve Congress on Dec. 7 because he was convinced lawmakers were about to remove him from office, one of his lawyers told EFE.

The 53-year-old former schoolteacher decided to play his “last card” when he “had already lost the game,” Wilfredo Robles said.

Castillo, the attorney said, “felt certain that (Congress) did have the votes to remove him. That narrative of ‘why did he do this if sufficient votes didn’t exist?’ is not accurate.”

Under Peru’s constitution, a president is authorized to dissolve congress and convene early elections if his or her Cabinet loses two confidence votes in the legislature.

Robles acknowledged that the situation when Castillo acted on Dec. 7 did not meet the constitutional requirement, but called the court decision authorizing the ousted head of state held in preventive detention for 18 months on charges of rebellion “worrisome.”

Castillo’s Dec. 7 televised address announcing the dissolution of Congress and plans to call elections to a constitutional convention “lacked any effect” because it was not approved by the Cabinet or published in the official gazette, the lawyer said.

“It was an ineffectual act, lacking all formality and impossible to execute,” Robles said.

When EFE asked why Castillo made the speech, the attorney replied: “It was a political act, an act of assertion that the population demanded of him.”

The president played his “last card” on behalf of the voters who elected him, Robles said.

“In that moment, being that his fate was sealed, he was interested in sending a message to his electorate, to his people, whom he felt he owed on the issue of the constitutional convention and the repudiation of Congress,” the lawyer said.

Castillo’s legal team has filed dozens of motions challenging his preventive detention in the rebellion case, arguing that the charge implies an armed uprising, which did not occur.

“The fact that Pedro Castillo appeared on television reading a message does not qualify as an armed uprising,” Robles said, accusing lawmakers, prosecutors, and judges of colluding against his client for political reasons.

“That is why we maintain that Pedro Castillo is a political prisoner,” the lawyer said. “And we conclude that from Dec. 7, the rule of law does not exist in Peru, a dictatorship exists.”

He went on to complain about the conditions of Castillo’s confinement in the same prison where disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori is serving a life sentence for massacres and corruption during his 1990-2002 tenure.

“The conditions are oppressive, they are vengeful,” Robles said, noting that while Castillo is denied medical attention and access to a telephone, Fujimori has his own phone and “an ambulance at his disposal.”

At the prison, Castillo spends his time reading and tending a small plot he has planted with pumpkins, potatoes, and chili plants, the attorney told EFE.

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

Hailing from the poor northern region of Cajamarca and without allies among the traditional governing elite in Lima, Castillo faced hostility from the opposition-controlled Congress and allegations of corruption practically from the moment he took office in July 2021.

More than 70 people have died in disturbances sparked by Castillo’s ouster, the majority of them protesters killed by security forces.

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