On December 7, former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo was removed from office after attempting to shutter the country’s Congress ahead of a vote to impeach him.
Peru’s highest court declared Castillo’s move unconstitutional, and he was arrested.
Days earlier, Castillo flatly denied any plan to dissolving the Congress, tweeting:
“At a difficult time for the country, with a crisis due to the fifth wave of the pandemic, I reaffirm my commitment to democracy, the rule of law and the Constitution, and I strongly reject the fact that my government is plotting to close Congress to avoid a vacancy.”
Castillo’s claim proved misleading. On December 7, he did what he said he wouldn’t, declaring:
“We have taken the decision to establish an emergency government, to reestablish the rule of law and democracy to which effect the following measures are dictated: to dissolve Congress temporarily, to install a government of exceptional emergency, to call to the shortest term possible to elections for a new Congress with the ability to draft a new Constitution.”
There was reason to believe Castillo's December 3 Tweet was disingenuous.
“Mr. Castillo had seemingly been considering such a move for some time,” The New York Times reported on December 7. “Last month, he publicly threatened to dissolve Congress and had quietly tried to survey military leaders about supporting him, according to local media outlets.”
In his December 7 declaration, Castillo also imposed a curfew and vowed to “reorganize” the country’s justice system.
Peruvian lawmakers, including political allies, denounced Castillo as undemocratic, as did several countries, including the United States. Many condemned the move as an attempted coup.
This was not the first time Castillo faced impeachment: Congress had previously tried to remove him from office twice since he was elected Peru’s president in July 2021.
The most recent attempt was in March of this year, when lawmakers accused Castillo, facing three preliminary investigations into corruption, of “permanent moral incapacity.”
Under Peruvian law, such investigations cannot proceed until a president is out of office.
On December 7, immediately after Castillo declared he was dissolving the Congress, the 130-seat body voted 101-6 to impeach him for “moral incapacity.”
The previous day, Castillo had accused those working to oust him of trying to “blow up democracy and disregard [the] people’s right to choose.” He said the accusations against him were “slander.”
Castillo ran for president as a candidate of the Free Peru party, but quit the far-left group in July. Assessing his downfall for Foreign Policy, writer Catherine Osborn said:
“Castillo’s rural, working-class background was unprecedented in the upper echelons of Peruvian politics, and his election in June 2021… raised hopes that he would run an administration focused on improving the lives of the poor. But in office, he careered from one crisis to the next, reshuffling his cabinet multiple times and facing three impeachment attempts over corruption charges. …
“Abandoned by nearly all of his allies – and even his lawyer – Castillo appears to have concluded his short political career.”
At the time of his removal from office, Castillo’s approval rating had fallen to 19 percent in the capital Lima but remained at 45 percent in the rural areas of the country.
Following Castillo’s removal from office and his arrest, Vice President Dina Boluarte was sworn in as president. She is the first woman to lead Peru and now must find a way to bring political stability to the country.