Peruvian president survives second impeachment attempt in 8 months | WJHL

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Pedro Castillo, Peru’s embattled president, avoided joining the list of impeached South American leaders as opposition lawmakers Monday night failed to secure enough votes to impeach him eight months after the start of his mandate.

Castillo, a political neophyte who shook the country when he defeated the political elite to become president, survived his second impeachment attempt. He called the accusations against him speculation and argued that none could be substantiated.

The votes of at least 87 of 130 lawmakers were needed to impeach the president. Fifty-five voted for, 54 against and 19 abstained.

“I salute the common sense, responsibility and democracy that prevailed,” Castillo tweeted after the vote. “I recognize the lawmakers who voted against the vacancy, and I respect the decision of those who did. I call on everyone to turn this page and work together for the great challenges of the country.

Lawmakers seeking to impeach Castillo had noted that he was the subject of three preliminary investigations into possible corruption, which under Peruvian law cannot continue until he is removed from office. There is also a separate accusation from a potential collaborator who alleged that he was part of a criminal group that receives money in exchange for public works.

Lawmakers charged Castillo with “permanent moral incapacity,” a term incorporated into Peruvian constitutional laws that experts say lack objective definition and that Congress has used six times since 2017 to try to impeach presidents.

“We only found comments without any corroboration, speculation, imaginary connections,” Castillo said of the charges while reading a speech to lawmakers hours before the vote.

While Castillo remains in office, the latest ruling against him will add to Peru’s political turmoil and weaken the president, who won the post with just 44,000 more votes than his opponent in a runoff. He was an outsider when he entered the race last year and initially campaigned on promises to nationalize Peru’s crucial mining industry and rewrite the constitution.

From the start, Castillo, a rural schoolteacher from a poor district in the Andes, has been handicapped by his ministerial choices, several of which have been accused of wrongdoing. The same goes for his former private secretary, whose corruption investigation led the prosecution to find $20,000 in a bathroom in the presidential palace.

“Recent developments have confirmed Peru’s dysfunction regardless of power,” said Claudia Navas, an analyst at global firm Control Risks. “These events will certainly exacerbate Peruvians’ frustration with the political system, which poses a risk as they will be willing to support an authoritarian ruler as a desperate measure to overcome prolonged political instability.”

The debate in Congress lasted several hours.

Peru’s unicameral Congress is deeply fragmented among 10 political parties and rarely achieves consensus on passing legislation. Castillo’s party is the largest faction, but it has only 37 seats and opposition members lead key committees.

The government has invited three representatives of the Organization of American States to attend the debate. Lawmakers allowed them to watch it from a nearby building.

Castillo took over from Francisco Sagasti, who was named president by Congress in November 2020 as the country went through three heads of state in a week amid clashes that left two dead and more than 200 injured.

“Leaving presidents vacant has become a sport,” said centrist lawmaker Wilmar Elera, who recalled that President Martín Vizcarra was sacked by Congress in 2020 for permanent moral incapacity but was not subject to any charge since.

Both Congress and Castillo are unpopular in Peru, although disapproval from lawmakers is greater. A survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies published in March by the newspaper “La República” indicated that the disapproval rate of Congress was 79%, while 68% had negative opinions of Castillo.

The debate over Castillo’s future came just as the country awaited the release from prison of former President Alberto Fujijmori, who was freed earlier this month in a controversial decision by Peru’s top court. He was serving a 25-year sentence for his role in more than 20 murders during his administration between 1990 and 2000.

Peru has also seen demonstrations across the country in recent days protesting food, fuel and fertilizer prices.

Navas said Castillo is now likely to try to show all the results his administration has achieved in a bid to win his administration’s support, but that is unlikely to affect public opinion.

She said the country needed “comprehensive political reform” that promotes public participation and “strengthens the rules for internal consultations of political parties to elect their candidates”.

“Measures to ensure the adequacy of political power holders are also needed,” Navas said. “Reform is also needed to introduce clear criteria for Congress to impeach a president on the grounds of ‘moral incapacity’.”


Associated Press writer Franklin Briceño reported this story in Lima and AP writer Regina Garcia Cano reported from Mexico City.

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