Conflicts & War

Peru’s new president pleads for unity in wake of failed coup

Lima, Dec 7 (EFE).- Dina Boluarte began her tenure as Peru’s first woman president on Wednesday with an appeal for unity in the aftermath of ousted predecessor Pedro Castillo’s attempt to dissolve Congress and impose emergency rule.

Boluarte, a 60-year-old attorney who woke up Wednesday as vice president, called for a “broad process of dialogue among all the political forces.”

She took the oath of office shortly after the Peru National Police (PNP) confirmed that Castillo was in custody at a station in Lima.

All but 29 of the 130 members of the unicameral legislature voted Wednesday afternoon to remove Castillo on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity” and then approved a motion summoning Boluarte for her swearing-in as the new head of state.

Peru’s long-simmering political crisis was brought to a boil Wednesday morning by Castillo’s hastily arranged televised address announcing the closure of Congress and the installation of “a government of exceptional emergency.”

His hands shaking, he directed 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.”

Along with elections to choose a new legislature, he proclaimed a reorganization of the entire judiciary and of the Attorney General’s Office.

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.

Benji Espinoza, an attorney who has represented Castillo in connection with congressional attempts to remove him and a criminal case for corruption brought by the AG Office, said Wednesday that he was no longer the president’s legal counsel.

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.

And Boluarte likewise characterized Castillo’s action as a coup.

In the interval between Castillo’s speech and the legislative session, the Armed Forces Joint Command and the PNP said that they would not be party to any acts “contrary to the established constitutional order.”

The communique went on to note that under Article 134 of Peru’s constitution, the president has the authority to dissolve Congress only if lawmakers refuse to approve two successive slates of proposed Cabinet ministers.

As evening approached, EFE saw police resort to tear gas to break up a confrontation between supporters and opponents of Castillo outside the station where the erstwhile president was being held.

Castillo, 53, was a schoolteacher with no previous experience of public office when he ran for president. He prevailed narrowly over right-winger Keiko Fujimori – daughter of the disgraced and imprisoned Alberto – in a runoff.

Hailing from the chronically 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. EFE pbc-pfc-gdl-csr-dub/dr

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