Peruvian President Castillo avoids impeachment in Congress vote

A handout picture released by the Peruvian Congress showing lawyer Felix Palomino talking to the Congress in the representation of Peruvian President Pedro Castillo after he gave a short statement as the parliament debates his impeachment, in Lima on March 28, 2022. – Peru’s opposition-dominated Congress began a debate on Monday that will decide the future of leftist President Pedro Castillo, who is accused of corruption and moral incapacity. It is already the second time in his eight months as Peru’s leader that Castillo has face an impeachment process in a country with a recent history of ousting its presidents. (Photo by Ernesto ARIAS / Peruvian Congress / AFP)

by Carlos MANDUJANO / Luis Jaime CISNEROS

LIMA, Peru (AFP) — Peru’s President Pedro Castillo avoided impeachment by an opposition-dominated Congress on Monday, bringing to a close the second bid to unseat him since he rose to power eight months ago.

Following a parliamentary debate that lasted more than eight hours, 55 legislators voted in favor of Castillo’s impeachment, 54 voted against, and 19 abstained.

Eighty-seven votes would have been required to impeach the leftist leader, whom the opposition accused of corruption and moral incapacity.

“The motion to declare the presidency of the republic vacant has not been approved,” said opposition leader Maria del Carmen Alva, who heads Congress, after the vote held at around 11:00 pm (04h00 GMT Tuesday).

“I hail the fact that common sense, responsibility and democracy have won,” Castillo wrote on Twitter after the vote.

“I call on all (legislators) to turn the page and to work together to solve the great challenges the country faces,” he added.

The result of the vote was not a surprise: though the conservative opposition dominates Congress, it did not have a large enough majority to force Castillo out on its own.

“To be honest we don’t have the votes,” said Norma Yarrow from the right-wing Advance Country party prior to the vote.

“We don’t see this as a defeat,” said legislator Alejandro Munante, who had spearheaded the impeachment bid against Castillo.

It was the second time in his eight months as Peru’s leader that Castillo faced an impeachment bid in a country with a recent history of ousting its presidents.

It was also the sixth time since 2017 that Congress opened impeachment proceedings against a sitting president.

The right-wing Pedro Pablo Kuczynski survived one but resigned in 2018 before Congress opened a second debate.

Centrist Martin Vizcarra also survived an attempt to remove him before he was finally ousted in 2020.

Castillo faced a similar impeachment bid in December, and has been under fire from the opposition and some of the Peruvian media in the months since then.

Three presidents in one week 

The opposition had accused the 52-year-old former schoolteacher of moral incapacity and tolerating alleged corruption in his inner circle.

He has also come under criticism for repeated ministerial crises under his rule, with four cabinet reshuffles in eight months.

Monday’s session began with a speech by Castillo, who had an hour to answer to the accusations he faced.

From the start, Castillo was defiant, saying the proceedings did not “contain a single element that validly supports” the accusation of moral incapacity.

Ever since his razor-tight election runoff victory against right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori, Castillo has faced accusations of fraud.

Impeachment proceedings are relatively common in Peru because its constitution allows for one to be brought against a president based on the more subjective premise of political rather than legal wrongdoing.

It has created much political instability: in November 2020, Peru had three presidents within one week.

Castillo has received support from fellow leftist governments in Latin America while the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights criticized the charge of moral incapacity, saying that there was “no objective definition” of it.

© Agence France-Presse

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