Lima, Dec 7 (EFE).- President Pedro Castillo was arrested Wednesday after Congress ousted him within hours of his announcement that he was dissolving the legislature and establishing emergency rule, the Peru National Police (PNP) said.
“PNP officers detained former President Pedro Castillo,” the force said on its official Twitter account.
The erstwhile head of state is being held at a police precinct in Lima, the PNP said.
All but 29 of the 130 members of the unicameral assembly voted to remove the leftist president on the grounds of “permanent moral incapacity.”
Lawmakers then approved a motion summoning Vice President Dina Boluarte, who repudiated Castillo’s action as a coup, to Congress for her swearing-in as Peru’s first woman head of state.
In the interval between Castillo’s hastily arranged televised address announcing the closing of Congress 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.
“The following measures are ordered: temporarily dissolve the Congress of the Republic and install a government of exceptional emergency,” Castillo told Peruvians early Wednesday.
His hands visibly 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.
The 53-year-old former schoolteacher concluded with an appeal to institutions of civil society, members of rural militias that date from the 1980-2000 armed conflict “and all social sectors” to come out in defense of the measures announced Wednesday. EFE 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.
The ministers of economy, Kurt Burneo; foreign affairs, Cesar Landa; and labor, Alejandro Salas, said in a joint statement that they were quitting in obedience to “democratic values.”
Justice Minister Felix Chero said that he was stepping down out of “respect for democratic institutionalism.”
Benji Espinoza, an attorney who has represented the president in connection with congressional attempts to remove and a criminal case for corruption brought by the AG Office, said Wednesday that he was severing his ties with Castillo.
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.
Peruvian media outlets said there was no sign of unusual military activity on Wednesday, apart from an apparent emergency meeting of the joint chiefs at their headquarters in Lima.
Castillo, 53, was a schoolteacher with no previous political experience 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 has faced hostility from the opposition-controlled Congress and the judiciary since taking office in July 2021. EFE gdl-csr-dub/dr