The President of Peru Efforted to Dissolve the Legislative Branch. The day ended with his arrest.
A government coup by Pedro Castillo was an attempt to seize power before Congress could vote on his impeachment. His ousting and subsequent incarceration put a stop to the endeavor.
On that day, all eyes in Peru were on Congress, where an impeachment vote against the president on corruption accusations was scheduled.
A surprise televised statement from the Peruvian leader was broadcast just before noon. Shocking political figures across the board—including his own allies—he declared the dissolution of Congress and the creation of an emergency government in an apparent attempt to carry out what was widely described as an attempted coup to cling to power.
There was a mass resignation of government employees. The highest court in the land ruled that the action was illegal. Furthermore, the country's armed services and national police made a united statement making it clear they would not be backing him.
By the evening of that same day, 53-year-old Pedro Castillo had been forced from office and was in custody. His vice president, Dina Boluarte, was sworn in as Peru's first female president.
The presidency of Mr. Castillo, Peru's first communist president in more than a generation, came to a dramatic end. A former farmer, teacher, and union member, he ran for office last year on a platform of fixing the economy and reducing the extreme poverty that has plagued Peru's rural population since the outbreak of the pandemic.
His attempt to seize power, though, was reminiscent of one made thirty years earlier by former President Alberto Fujimori. Mr. Fujimori, like Mr. Castillo, was an outsider populist who won election in a free and fair process. Two years later, with the backing of the military, he conducted a coup that effectively dissolved Congress, and he governed as a dictator until the year 2000. As a result of his alleged corrupt practices and violations of human rights, he is currently behind bars.
However, Peru has been shaken by years of high-level corruption scandals, which have led to the resignation or assassination of six presidents since 2016. During Mr. Castillo's 16 months in power, Congress twice attempted to impeach him but fell short of the necessary votes.
Mr. Castillo was one of a number of leftists in Latin America who were elected with the support of voters who were disillusioned by the establishment after decades of inequality, high unemployment, and a corrupt and infighting elite political class.
In spite of this, he showed no signs of wanting to fulfill his campaign pledges, and his administration was immediately immobilized by a series of scandals involving high-level officials, criminal investigations, and cabinet resignations.
Over the course of his presidency, Mr. Castillo shuffled through more than 80 ministers, filling numerous positions with political supporters who lacked the necessary experience. Several of these allies are now under investigation for crimes like corruption, domestic abuse, and even murder.
Prosecutors claimed he oversaw a criminal enterprise in which lawmakers and family members profited from government contracts, and he was also accused of repeatedly obstructing justice, sometimes in plain view, such as when his daughter vanished from the presidential palace as she faced arrest, and his office later claimed that footage of the incident went missing.
According to polls conducted last month by the Institute of Peruvian Studies, the president's approval rating has fallen to 19 percent in Lima, but in rural areas it has maintained at 45 percent, barely four percentage points lower than a year earlier.
After Mr. Castillo threatened to dissolve Congress last month, Congress set a third impeachment vote last week.
Mr. Castillo dissolved Congress, installed an emergency government to rule by decree, and imposed an immediate national curfew just hours before that vote.
“We have taken the decision to establish an emergency government, to reestablish the rule of law and democracy to which effect the following measures are dictated: to dissolve Congress temporarily, to install a government of exceptional emergency, to call to the shortest term possible to elections for a new Congress with the ability to draft a new Constitution,” Mr. Castillo said.
The proclamation made by Mr. Castillo threw the already struggling democracy into its worst political crisis in years. Two times before, Congress had attempted to impeach Mr. Castillo but fallen short of the necessary votes.
It soon became clear, however, that his announcement had little backing, as many of his top cabinet members resigned, a flood of denunciations poured in from political opponents and constitutional experts, and the armed forces and police issued a joint statement implying that he lacked the legal authority to carry out his decree.
“We deplore the breaking of constitutional order and we ask the populace to follow the political constitution, keep calm and trust state institutions,” the police subsequently added in a second statement.
The American Embassy in Peru has also spoken out against Mr. Castillo. In a tweet, the U.S. Embassy urged President Castillo to reconsider his decision to dissolve Congress and restore constitutional functioning of Peru's democratic institutions. The people of Peru should remain calm at this period of transition, we say.
Even Mr. Castillo's closest allies seemed taken aback by the president's pronouncement.
Benji Espinoza, the president's personal lawyer until he quit on Wednesday, said on a local radio station, RPP, "I am a defender of the democratic order, of the Constitution, and I am deeply convinced that politics cannot be above the law."
It seems as though Mr. Castillo had been thinking about making this change for some time. Local media reports report that last month he openly threatened to dissolve Congress and had secretly tried to contact military chiefs about supporting him.
Some opposition politicians stayed the night in Congress on Sunday because of fear of a violent attempt by the armed forces to close the session following the resignation of his defense minister on Saturday, who cited personal reasons for his departure. Not anything close to that happened. The leader of the Peruvian army also resigned on Tuesday, citing personal reasons.
Impeachment proceedings against President Castillo began just two hours after Mr. Castillo's pronouncement on Wednesday, when Congress met and voted in favor of doing so. The vote to remove him from office was 101-6, with 10 lawmakers not voting.
On Wednesday night, the prosecutor's office announced that it had requested his arrest on accusations of "rebellion." He was last spotted leaving the presidential palace in a car that later entered a police station. The authorities then revealed that he will be detained at the same naval station prison on the outskirts of Lima where Mr. Fujimori is already serving his sentence.
Ms. Boluarte was sworn in as president of Peru shortly after the vote in congress.
After being sworn in in front of parliamentarians who applauded and shouted, she stated, "It is up to us to talk, to participate in communication, to find accords." Time is what I need to save our country from the corruption and incompetence of its government, and I'm asking for it.
Ms. Boluarte, who is 60 years old, has advocated for a ceasefire between Peru's political parties in order to restore national unity and put the country back on a road of economic progress.
Ms. Boluarte ran for office on Mr. Castillo's ticket in the previous election. She is a former lawyer and member of a Marxist political party who was expelled for criticizing the party leader. She served as both his vice president and his minister of development and social inclusion, but resigned from the ministry after the president formed his last cabinet last month.
Since Ms. Boluarte is not widely recognized, a recent poll found that Peruvians preferred fresh general elections to the possibility of her succeeding Mr. Castillo in office in the event of his impeachment.
Before Mr. Castillo, former President Martn Vizcarra was the only Peruvian leader to be successfully expelled. He resigned from office following the 2020 referendum but filed an appeal with the Constitutional Tribunal, which ultimately decided not to rule on the legitimacy of his resignation.
The next president lasted less than a week in office, and his successor governed Peru for the next eight months, until Mr. Castillo took office.
Genevieve Glatsky contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia, and Elda Cantú from Mexico City.