Conflicts & War

Peru’s Castillo seeks court relief, mobilizes support amid corruption probe

Lima, Aug. 12 (EFE).- The legal team of Peruvian President Pedro Castillo on Friday continued his legal defense in one of the six corruption and mismanagement probes launched against the leader, who visited his northern bastion of the San Martin department to mobilize supporters amid the crisis.

During Friday’s hearing, Castillo’s lawyer Benji Espinoza urged Juan Carlos Checkley, a judge of the first instance Supreme Court, to quash former interior minister Mariano Gonzalez’s obstruction of justice complaint against the president.

Espinoza argued that the Peruvian attorney general’s Office had recorded Gonzalez’s testimony after the latter publicly accused Castillo of blocking the arrests of fugitives from justice, but without opening a preliminary probe against the president.

Meanwhile, the prosecution said in a statement that deputy attorney general Marco Huaman had argued that Castillo’s right to defense had not been affected in this case.

During the hearing, Huaman denied that the preliminary probe, which allowed the prosecutors to record Gonzalez’s statement, had violated the right to defense by not allowing Castillo’s lawyers to participate.

He argued that the former interior minister’s testimony had been required to record a circumstantial and detailed account of the developments he had mentioned in a televised interview.

The president had already testified to the attorney general’s office on Aug. 4, denying the obstruction of justice charges, although he refused to answer prosecutors’ questions

After two days of events at Lima’s presidential palace seeking popular support, on Friday Castillo headed to San Martin, where he had won both rounds of the presidential polls, and vowed to not let his detractors “break him.”

This has become his motto since the judiciary – at the request of the attorney general – on Tuesday ordered the arrest of his sister-in-law Yenifer Paredes, who Castillo has raised like his own daughter.

“Peruvian people, they will not break me! thanks to the people who have put me in charge of the country. (…) When there is a debate in the state’s first power center (the Congress), instead of seeing this reality, some people who have grown up on expensive rugs humiliate and mistreat the women lawmakers who come from the working class,” the president told supporters.

He alleged that he was being urged to shut down the opposition-majority parliament, which had been hostile towards him from the beginning, while also lashing out at the press for a media trial against him.

Castillo alleged that his detractors wanted the president to be ousted because “they cannot tolerate a peasant in the palace.”

After trying to mobilize support following Paredes’ arrest, Castillo’s dismal approval ratings improved slightly in the latest poll by the firm CPI, showing 22.6 percent support – three percent higher than in June – while 71 percent of the respondents continued to disapprove of the president.

Meanwhile the president of the Supreme Court, Elvia Barrios, denied that the judiciary was part of a plot to persecute the government, as alleged by Castillo, who has claimed that there was a coup operation to oust him from power.

Although, Barrios acknowledged in a statement to state broadcaster TV Peru that “there was a serious conflict between the executive and legislative branches,” she insisted that the judiciary would not get involved in the conflict.

The attorney general has opened six preliminary probes against Castillo on charges such as interference in military and police promotions, heading a criminal syndicate that acts within the executive, and financial irregularities in granting transport contracts, among others.

The leader has become the first Peruvian president to be officially investigated during the first year of his term.

Castillo has claimed that he was the target of a “conspiracy between Congress, the attorney general’s office and a section of the press to destabilize the democratic order” and “seize power illegally.” EFE


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