Peru president Castillo avoids impeachment attempt

Right-wing parties introduced the impeachment motion in Congress in October, citing corruption allegations.

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo has seen his popularity plummet since taking office [File: Guadalupe Pardo/AP Photo]

Peru’s President Pedro Castillo has avoided an impeachment attempt, with the South American country’s Congress voting against a motion to move forward with the proceedings.

The motion, which was introduced in October by right-wing parties, was voted down 76-46 on Tuesday as protests both for and against the left-wing leader filled the streets of the capital Lima.

Castillo was elected by a razor-thin margin in July but has seen his popularity plummet amid corruption allegations and widespread protests in mining communities.

Castillo’s party, Peru Libre, rallied behind him on Monday, despite clashing with him over policy and at one point considering supporting the effort to remove him from office.

They called the attempt a right-wing coup.

“The impeachment motion failed, fascism failed, the parliamentary blow to democracy failed,” Peru Libre leader Vladimir Cerron said on Twitter after the vote.

The impeachment push, backed by right-wing legislator and defeated presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, appeared to be losing steam in recent days after Castillo held talks with various political parties.

Breathing room

Before the vote, hundreds of protesters gathered in Lima both for and against Castillo, a former teacher from a farming family who came into office pledging major social change.

“We want him to keep working,” Maria Lazaro Cornelio, a protester supporting Castillo, told Reuters news agency. “We want him to keep his word on things that he has promised us.”

Andres Capelletti, who protested against Castillo, said: “We, the democratic citizens, cannot continue to allow this man, to remain in the Government Palace one more minute.”

“It is Congress’ responsibility to remove him,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

The vote offers some breathing room for Castillo as prosecutors investigate alleged cases of corruption by his aides.

Three right-wing opposition parties, accounting for 43 seats in the legislature, introduced the motion to impeach after investigators found $20,000 in a bathroom of the presidential palace that allegedly belonged to the now-former Presidential Secretary Bruno Pacheco.

Last week, local media reported that prosecutors were also planning to question Castillo amid an investigation into two former military officials’ claims that they were relieved from duty after refusing to promote individuals recommended by Castillo.

Impeachment proceedings have become relatively common in Peru, which has had five presidents since 2016.

In 2018, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned from the presidency minutes before an impeachment vote.

Centrist Martin Vizcarra last year stepped down after nine opposition parties banded together to pass an impeachment motion. They cited corruption and mishandling of the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: News Agencies