Peruvian President Pedro Castillo. Photo: Office of the Peruvian Presidency


Just hours before it was to begin debates over his impeachment, Peruvian President Pedro Castillo on Wednesday, Dec. 7, announced the immediate dissolution of his country’s national congress and called for new legislative elections to draft a constitution, only to be ousted from power by that very body.

Members of the Peruvian Congress immediately responded by calling Castillo’s move “a coup,” and voting to remove him from office on grounds of “moral incapacity.”

By the early afternoon, Castillo had been arrested by federal police and taken into custody, with his vice president, Dina Boluarte.

According to Peruvian media reports, Castillo was arrested on his way to the Mexican Embassy, where he was expecting to be granted political asylum.

Meanwhile, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) accused the political and social elites of Peru of “harassing and confronting” his former counterpart.

Castillo, who had faced strong political opposition ever since he took office in July 2021, had been considered by leftist López Obrador (AMLO) as a close political and regional ally in his quest to paint Latin America red.

Castillo’s announcement to dissolve Congress also came just one day after López Obrador railroaded a “plan b” initiative through the Mexican Congress’ lower house, which would effectively tie the hands of the country’s own National Electoral Institute (INE), thus concentrating power in his National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party and eroding democracy even further then he already had since taking office in December 2018.

That move, as well as Castillo’s attempted coup against Peru’s Congress, has led international analysts to warn that the ensuing political crisis in both countries is putting Latin America’s already-debilitated democracy at risk. 

In the past, AMLO has publicly defended Castillo when he faced legislative opposition and potential impeachment and destitution.

AMLO also turned a blind eye when Castillo overstepped his executive power.

“We have taken the decision to establish a ‘government of exception’ in order to  reestablish the rule of law and democracy,” Castillo stated in a nationally televised speech Wednesday morning, just hours before his own deposition, without elaborating on how such a government would protect democratic values and the rule of law.

Castillo also stated that Peru’s “new congress” would be charged with drafting a constitution within the next nine months.

“From today until that new congress is established, we shall govern through decrees,” he said.

President López Obrador has likewise used “presidential decrees” to get around constitutional limitations to his power.

And like Castillo, who on Wednesday said that there would be a “reorganization” of Peru’s judicial system, AMLO has consistently attacked and persecuted judges who have dared to vote against his autocratic initiatives.

During his first six months in office, Castillo, an inexperienced school teacher and union leader at odds with a conservative majority congress, underwent four different cabinet changes due to alleged corruption controversies.

Since then, his government had faced charges of incompetence and a lack of political direction as Castillo floundered between trying to justify his unfulfilled campaign platform promises and allegations of nepotism as he has appointed numerous unqualified friends and colleagues to high government posts.

Throughout his political toils, López Obrador repeatedly expressed unmitigated support of the Peruvian leader, even canceling Mexico’s hosting of the Pacific Alliance Summit because Castillo was denied permission by his congress to attend.

Although AMLO said that Mexico would not intervene in the current situation in Peru, he did say that Castillo was “a victim of confrontation and hostility maintained against him” by Peru’s social and economic elite.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard also issued a statement late Wednesday stating that Mexico regrets the incidences that occurred in Peru, calling for respect of democracy and human rights.

Ebrard also announced that the Pacific Alliance Summit, which Peru was supposed to host on Wednesday, Dec. 14, following AMLO’s decision late last month to cancel it in Mexico, would be “postponed until further notice.”

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