Ousted Peru President Charged With Rebellion

After dramatic day, Pedro Castillo's successor calls for national unity government
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 7, 2022 3:55 PM CST
Updated Dec 8, 2022 5:33 AM CST
Peru's Congress, President Try to Remove Each Other
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo holds a press conference at the presidential palace in Lima in October.   (AP Photo/Martin Mejia, File)
UPDATE Dec 8, 2022 5:33 AM CST

The president of Peru was arrested on a charge of rebellion Wednesday after he sought to dissolve the legislature and take unilateral control of the government, triggering a grave constitutional crisis. Pedro Castillo was ousted from office in a 101-6 vote. He was replaced by Vice President Dina Boluarte, who called for a political truce and the installation of a national unity government. Hours after Castillo was taken from the presidential palace to a police station, federal prosecutors announced that he had been arrested on the rebellion charge for allegedly violating constitutional order. Witnesses saw some small-scale clashes between riot police and protesters outside the station, the AP reports.

Dec 7, 2022 3:55 PM CST

Peru's Congress removed President Pedro Castillo from office Wednesday, voting to replace him with the vice president, shortly after Castillo decreed the dissolution of the legislature ahead of a scheduled vote to oust him. The national ombudsman's office called Castillo's move a coup, the AP reports, though at least one expert disagreed. The Congress has the ability to remove the president, and the president has the ability to dissolve the Congress, so "technically, it is not a coup," said Eduardo Gamarra, a professor at Florida International University. "The confusion is in the 15,000 interpretations that exist about who prevails, the Congress or the president," he said. The one who wins will be the one with more power, he said. Lawmakers voted 101-6 with 10 abstentions to remove Castillo for reasons of "permanent moral incapacity."

Federal prosecutors are investigating six cases against Castillo, most of them allegations of corruption, under the theory that he has used his power to profit from public works. He left the presidential palace in an automobile that later entered a police station, where his status was not clear. In a photograph circulated by the national police on Twitter, which was later erased, Castillo was visible seated in the station surrounded by officers. Shortly before the vote, Castillo announced that he was installing a new emergency government and called for the next round of lawmakers to develop a new constitution for the Andean nation. He said during a televised address that he would rule by decree meanwhile, and he ordered a nightly curfew starting Wednesday night.

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Castillo announced that he would make changes in the leadership of the judiciary, police, and constitutional court. The head of the army then resigned, along with four ministers, including those over foreign affairs and the economy. Castillo took action as his opponents in Congress moved toward a third attempt to remove him from office. The Ombudsman's Office, an autonomous government institution, said before the congressional vote that Castillo should resign and turn himself in to judicial authorities. Peru is in the midst of a constitutional collapse "that can't be called anything but a coup," the statement said. Vice President Dina Boluarte, a 60-year-old lawyer, is first woman to reach the presidency in Peru's more than 200 years as an independent republic.

(More Peru stories.)

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