Conflicts & War

Peruvian gov’t proclaims nationwide state of emergency

Lima, Dec 14 (EFE).- Two days after declaring a state of emergency in several regions amid protests against the ouster and subsequent detention of President Pedro Castillo, Peru’s new head of state moved Wednesday to expand the scope of the decree to the entire country.

Along with the state of exception, which entails the suspension of the right of assembly and freedom of movement and allows police to enter a home without a warrant, President Dina Boluarte’s administration said it was weighing the imposition of a curfew.

What Boluarte describes as a “government of transition” acted in response to vandalism, violence and the blocking of roads, Defense Minister Alberto Otarola told reporters.

Seven people have died and more than 100 police have been injured in the disturbances that followed the removal and arrest of Castillo.

The 53-year-old 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 to replace the one enacted under Alberto Fujimori, now serving a life sentence for massacres committed during his 1990-2000 rule.

Castillo 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 deposed president’s own security detail arrested him and took him to police headquarters in Lima as he was trying to reach the Mexican Embassy to request asylum.

On Monday, Castillo supporters occupied the airport in Arequipa, Peru’s second city, while Tuesday saw an invasion of a natural gas plant in Cuzco province and the precautionary shutdown of the province’s airport and the train service for tourists visiting the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

EFE saw military units taking up positions Wednesday at strategic points in Arequipa as hundreds of people gathered in the city center to demand that Boluarte step down.

The next general election is set for 2026, but Boluarte, who initially proposed moving up the vote to April 2024, said Wednesday that the ballot could be held as early as December 2023.

“I call on Peru in general to maintain calm. This government of Dina Boluarte has said from the start that it will be open to dialogue,” she said, stressing that dialogue is impossible amid violence.

Government ministers will travel to the protest hot spots with the intention of “conversing in a fraternal, tranquil” manner with demonstrators, she said.

Castillo is to remain in custody for at least another 48 hours to allow time for a hearing on prosecutors’ motion to hold the ex-president in preventive detention for 18 months, Supreme Court Justice Juan Carlos Checkley ruled Wednesday.

That hearing was supposed to take place early Wednesday, the last of the seven days of detention authorized a week ago, but Castillo and his lawyers refused to take part.

One of the defense attorneys, Ronald Atencio, told the media that his client boycotted the hearing because authorities refused to allow him and co-counsel Raul Noblecilla to enter the prison and accompany Castillo as he participated in the court session via video-link.

“Not having the necessary guarantees to exercise a right of effective defense, I definitely have nothing to do in this hearing,” Atencio said before leaving the prison with Noblecilla.

Castillo turned to Atencio and Noblecilla after his original counsel, former Prime Minister Anibal Torres, was named as a potential co-defendant in the case and went underground to avoid arrest.

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

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