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Peru: Castillo ousted over 'coup' bid, new leader sworn in

December 7, 2022

Vice President Dina Boluarte has been sworn in as the country's first female president, and Pedro Castillo was arrested. Castillo had tried to dissolve Congress in a bid to avoid impeachment.

Pedro Castillo
Peru's president called for the legislative elections just hours before a third attempt to unseat himImage: Victor Gonzales/AFP

Peru's Vice President Dina Boluarte was sworn in Wednesday as the country's new president after Congress voted out Pedro Castillo.  

After hours of uncertainty and wrangling between the legislature and the president, Boluarte took the oath as Peru's first-ever female leader — and Castillo was arrested.

During a session in Congress, Boluarte said she was taking office from now until July 26, 2026, when Castillo's term would have ended. 

"I take office being aware of the enormous responsibility I bear, and my first vocation is to call for the broadest possible unity of all Peruvians," she said, calling for a "political truce to install a government of national unity."

Peru's interim president, Dina Boluarte, waves after being sworn-in
Dina Boluarte was called on by Congress to take the office after the legislature approved the removal of President Pedro CastilloImage: Sebastian Castaneda/REUTERS

Castillo, meanwhile, was detained for "the alleged crime of rebellion" and conspiracy to violate the constitutional order, prosecutors said in a statement.

According to Peruvian media, he would be moved to a police-run prison after footage showed him leaving a police station. 

Why was Castillo removed from office? 

Earlier on Wednesday, Castillo said he would dissolve Congress and call new elections.

In a televised address, Castillo announced a curfew and said he would form an emergency government that would rule by decree. The comments came just hours before the legislature was due to debate a motion of impeachment against him.

"Elections will be called for a new Congress with constituent powers to prepare a new Constitution within a period of no more than nine months," Castillo said.

His move was immediately denounced as a coup, and parliament voted to remove Castillo, who was barely 18 months into a  five-year term.

Boluarte replaces Castillo

Following Castillo's televised address, Peru's Congress then voted to remove him from office and replace him with the vice president. Lawmakers voted 101-6 with 10 abstentions to oust Castillo, citing reasons of "permanent moral incapacity." 

Earlier on Wednesday, Boluarte, who until her expulsion earlier this year was a member of Castillo's Free Peru party, expressed her dismay at Castillo's announcements.

"I reject Pedro Castillo's decision to perpetrate the breakdown of the constitutional order by closing the Congress," she wrote on Twitter. "This is a coup d'etat."

Political turmoil

The scheduled impeachment vote was the third effort to unseat Castillo since he assumed office in July 2021.

Last week, the South American country's Congress called on the embattled president to respond to accusations of "moral incapacity" to govern.

Castillo hit back, saying the allegations against him are "slanderous."

Last month, thousands of people in Peru took to the streets calling for the incumbent's resignation amid six corruption investigations. Castillo cannot be prosecuted while he remains Peru's president.

How have other countries reacted?

The United States called into question Castillo's decision to dissolve the legislature.

"The United States categorically rejects any extra-constitutional act by President Castillo to prevent Congress from fulfilling its mandate," Ambassador Lisa Kenna wrote on Twitter.

Later on Wednesday, a US State Department spokesperson said Washington would "support Peru under the unity government President Boluarte pledged to form."

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president elect, said he followed the events "with great concern." 

"It is always regrettable that a democratically elected president has this fate, but I understand that everything was forwarded in the constitutional framework," he said.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for "democratic stability for the benefit of the people." 

Obrador said an environment of "confrontation and hostility" had led Castillo to make decisions that served his opponents and led to his removal from office.

Chile's Foreign Ministry said it "deeply regrets" the current political situation in Peru while adding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must be maintained.

Castillo already under investigation for alleged corruption

Prosecutors in Peru have been investigating six cases, mostly involving corruption, against Castillo. 

The leftist leader and former school teacher has been accused of using his power to profit from public works. 

Castillo denies the allegations against him, and insists that they have been part of a political ploy to oust him. 

In his speech before the impeachment vote, Castillo said he was paying for mistakes due to inexperience. He said he would never stain "the good name of my honest and exemplary parents, who like millions of Peruvians, work every day to build honestly a future for their families."

fb, jsi/aw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)