Peru’s President Pedro Castillo announced on Wednesday that he will temporarily dissolve Congress and install an emergency government — hours before lawmakers in Congress are due to cast an impeachment vote.
In a televised address from the presidential palace on Wednesday, Castillo said he will call for early parliamentary elections to work on a new constitution.
The embattled president, who survived two impeachment attempts, also declared a national curfew from 10 p.m. local (5 p.m. ET) to 4 a.m. local on Wednesday.
Congress seemed defiant, however, and began its session on Wednesday with lawmakers singing the national anthem.
Francisco Morales, the president of Peru’s Constitutional Court, called Castillo’s action “coup d’état” in a televised press conference and urged Vice President Dina Boluarte to assume the presidency.
Boluarte also criticized the move. “I reject Pedro Castillo’s decision to break down the constitutional order with the closure of Congress,” Boluarte wrote on Twitter. “It is a coup that exacerbates the political and institutional crisis that Peruvian society will have to overcome through strict adherence to the law.”
At least seven cabinet ministers have announced their resignations following Castillo’s announcement, including Environment Minister Wilbert Rozas, Finance Minister Kurt Burneo, Foreign Minister Cesar Landa and Justice Minister Felix Chero.
The leftist leader’s government has been embroiled in chaos since its inauguration, with dozens of ministers appointed, replaced, fired or resigned in just over a year, adding further pressure on the beleaguered president.
Castillo, a former schoolteacher and labor leader, has spoken out against the opposition for trying to remove him from day one in office and accused Peru’s attorney general Patricia Benavides of orchestrating what he called a new form of coup d’état. ” against him.
In October, Benavides filed a constitutional complaint against him based on three of the six investigations opened by her office. The complaint allows Congress to conduct its own investigation against the president.
A motion tabled by the opposition last week called for the president to be impeached for being “morally unfit” under Peru’s Constitution Art 113.
Castillo was elected by a narrow margin in a runoff election in July 2021 and has faced a series of investigations into whether he used his position to help himself, his family and close allies by, among other things, exerting influence to favor or preferential treatment.
Castillo has repeatedly denied all allegations and reiterated his willingness to cooperate with any investigation. He claims the allegations are the result of a witch hunt against him and his family by groups that did not accept his election victory.
The president faces five preliminary criminal investigations into charges of setting up corruption schemes while in office. These include prosecutors’ allegation that he led a “criminal network” that interfered with public institutions such as the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Housing and Peru’s state-owned oil company to monitor public bidding processes and benefit specific companies and close allies. come.
Prosecutors are also investigating whether the president has attempted to influence the promotion process of officers in both the armed forces and national police.
These investigations go beyond the president himself and also look at Castillo’s family, including his wife and sister-in-law. First lady Lilia Paredes is under investigation on suspicion of alleged coordination of the criminal network. Her lawyer, Benji Espinoza, has maintained her innocence, saying the investigation against the first lady contains “a number of flaws and omissions”.
And her sister-in-law Yenifer Paredes is under investigation for alleged participation in a criminal organization, money laundering and serious conspiracy. She was in custody until a judge revoked her 30-month “protective custody”. She has also denied any allegations.
“My daughter, my wife and all my family have been attacked for the sole purpose of destroying me because they don’t want me to finish my term. I promise you I will finish my term. I am not corrupt,” he said. during a televised address from the Presidential Palace on Oct. 20.
In the same speech, Castillo admitted that some of his close allies should be tried on corruption charges, saying, “If they have betrayed my trust, let justice take care of them.”
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.