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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Peru’s president survives 2nd attempt to prosecute in 8 months

LIMA, Peru ( Associated Press) – Pedro Castillo, Peru’s controversial president, has avoided joining the South American nation’s list of persecuted leaders as opposition lawmakers did not get enough votes Monday night to remove him from his eight-month term in office. office to remove.

Castillo, a political neophyte who rocked the country when he defeated the political elite to become president, survived his second attempt at persecution. He described the accusations against him as speculation and argued that no one could be substantiated.

The votes of at least 87 of the 130 legislators were needed to remove the president. Fifty-five voted in favor, 54 against and 19 abstained.

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

Lawmakers seeking to remove Castillo have noted that he is 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 prospective employee who claimed he was part of a criminal group receiving money in exchange for public works.

Lawmakers have accused Castillo of “permanent moral incompetence,” a term included in Peruvian constitutions that experts say does not have an objective definition and that Congress has used six times since 2017 to try to remove presidents.

“We only found comments without any substantiation, speculation, imaginary links,” Castillo said of the allegations as he read a speech to lawmakers hours before the vote.

While Castillo remains in office, the latest step against him will contribute to Peru’s political turmoil and weaken the president, who won the post by just 44,000 more votes than his opponent in a second election. He was a suspect when he took part in the race last year and initially campaigned for promises to nationalize Peru’s crucial mining industry and rewrite the constitution.

From the beginning, Castillo, a rural teacher in a poor Andean district, was harmed by his cabinet choices, of which a number were accused of transgression. So did his former private secretary, whose corruption investigation led to the prosecutor’s office finding $ 20,000 in a bathroom of the presidential palace.

“Recent developments have confirmed Peru’s dysfunction, regardless of who is in power,” said Claudia Navas, an analyst at the global firm Control Risks. “These events will certainly exacerbate Peruvian frustration with the political system, which represents a risk because they would be willing to support an authoritarian leader as a desperate measure to overcome long-standing political instability.”

The debate in Congress lasted several hours.

Peru’s unicameral congress is deeply fragmented among 10 political parties and can rarely reach any consensus on the adoption of legislation. Castillo’s party is the largest faction, but it has only 37 seats, and opposition members lead key committees.

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

Castillo succeeded Francisco Sagasti, who was appointed president by Congress in November 2020 when the country was ridden by three heads of state in one week amid confrontations that left two people dead and more than 200 injured.

“Evacuating presidents has become a sport,” said centrist lawmaker Wilmar Elera, recalling that President Martín Vizcarra was fired by Congress in 2020 due to permanent moral incapacity, but has not faced any charges since.

Congress and Castillo are both unpopular in Peru, though legislators’ disapproval is greater. A survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies published in March by the newspaper “La República” said that the congressional rejection rate was 79%, while 68% had negative views 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 released by Peru’s Supreme Court in a controversial decision earlier this month. He served a 25-year sentence for his role in more than 20 murders during his administration between 1990 and 2000.

Peru has also seen protests across the country in recent days to protest food, fuel and fertilizer prices.

Navas said Castillo would probably now try to show any results his administration has achieved in an effort to gain support for its administration, but that it is unlikely to affect public opinion.

She said the country needed a “comprehensive political reform” that promoted public participation and “strengthened the rules for political parties’ internal consultations to elect their candidates.”

“Measures to ensure the suitability of those in political power are also required,” Navas said. “A reform is also needed to establish clear criteria for Congress to accuse a president of ‘moral incompetence’.”

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

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