Update 2 (2:30pmET): This should answer our question whose side the local military/policy is.
- *PERU POLICE DETAIN PRESIDENT PEDRO CASTILLO: COMERCIO
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- *PERU CONGRESS APPROVES IMPEACHING PRESIDENT PEDRO CASTILLO
- PERU’S VICE PRESIDENT REJECTS ON TWITTER CASTILLO’S DECISION TO “PERPETRATE THE BREAKDOWN OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER WITH THE CLOSURE OF CONGRESS”
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It turns out the US is not the only banana republic out there: moments ago, Peru President Pedro Castillo announced the dissolution of congress and called for legislative elections to draft a new constitution hours before an impeachment debate, greatly escalating a political crisis and putting the Latin American nation’s democracy under threat.
“We took the decision of establishing a government of exception toward reestablishing the rule of law and democracy,” Castillo said in a televised speech Wednesday, adding that the incoming congress will draft a new constitution within nine months. “From today and until the new congress is established, we will govern through decrees.”
Castillo’s move was met with nationwide protests and outrage by the Peruvian constitutional court which called the dissolution of Congress a coup, and said that Castillo is no longer president. Meanwhile, the Congress – which apparently did not get the memo that it has been dissolved – started the Castillo impeachment session early, and will most likely vote to remove the president.
Additionally, the Peruvian vice president Boluarte rejected Castillo’s “coup” while the country’s Attorney General said he would file a criminal complaint against Castillo.
Meanwhile Castillo also announced a curfew and the “reorganization” of Peru’s justice system including the top courts at the same time he pledged to respect private property and business freedom. The president also said all illegal arms in possession of Peruvians must be handed back to the police within 72 hours.
Castillo’s unexpected move comes as congress was preparing to discuss a third impeachment attempt against him after failing to remove him from power twice. The president has had a rocky relationship with lawmakers since the start of his administration in July 2021 yet the measure risks creating a backlash as it’s legality will be questioned. A sign of that came quickly after Castillo’s speech, when Finance Minister Kurt Burneo, Foreign Minister Cesar Landa, and Justice Minister Felix Chero presented their resignations.
The move brought back memories of the decision by former leader Alberto Fujimori in 1992 to dissolve congress. At that time, he was supported by his ministers and the military.
And just like then, what will matter at the end of the day is who controls the army.
Sure enough, as Rodolfo Rojas, a partner at Lima-based Sequoia political advisory group said, “the army’s attitude toward this will be decisive over the next hours. If they back Castillo, he could stay in power temporarily, but if not, he’s going to fall.”
What determines whom the army will back? Why money of course: the one who hands over more of it, will be left in charge after this.
Peru’s sol tumbled as much 1.7% against the dollar after the announcement, the biggest intraday decline since July last year. Dollar-denominated bonds were among the worst in emerging markets, with the nation’s century bond sliding 1.3 cents to 60 cents on the dollar after the news. Peru’s benchmark stock index dropping 2.4% to the lowest in over a month.
For those wondering, the US is not on the side of Castillo, despite his eagerness to confiscate all domestic weapons. Brian Nichols, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said that the US “categorically” rejects any acts by Castillo to prevent Congress from carrying out its mandate.
“We strongly urge President Castillo to reverse his attempt to close Congress and allow Peru’s democratic institutions to function as outlined in Peru’s constitution,” Nichols, the top diplomat focused on Latin America, said in a statement. “This dissolution is completely illegal,” Andrea Moncada, a political analyst, said.
Former President Ollanta Humala said Castillo’s announcement was akin to that of a dictator and that he should be detained. He called on the Armed Forces to stand on the right side of the constitution.
“What should happen is that Castillo should be detained since he’s gone outside the law,” Humala told RPP Noticias. “This decision should have been supported by the cabinet of ministers, those who haven’t resigned yet are in the same situation as Castillo.”