The Peruvian Congress, in a vote held this Monday (14), agreed to debate a vacancy motion against President Pedro Castillo, in constant crisis since he took office eight months ago. The mechanism, if approved, could lead to the Peruvian being removed from the presidency.
The initiative came from a group of right-wing parties led by conservative Avança País and was approved by 76 votes against 47 – one parliamentarian abstained. For the motion of vacancy to pass, 87 votes out of 130 will be needed.
Maricarmen Alva, president of the Congress, proposed that the plenary session debate the matter on the 28th, at 3 pm (5 pm in Brasília), but the date has not yet been agreed, as some parliamentarians want to bring it forward. Castillo was also urged to present his defence.
Many of the arguments listed by the acronyms to ask for the Peruvian leader’s departure are based on allegations of corruption. A recent statement by a lobbyist to the Peruvian Attorney’s Office accusing Castillo of money laundering is on the list presented. He is also accused of having had meetings outside the official agenda with businessmen interested in taking advantage of public works.
This, however, is not the first time that the leftist, who is already in his fourth ministerial cabinet, has become the target of a similar request. Last December, the Congress of the Latin American country also evaluated Castillo’s deposition for lack of “moral capacity” to perform the function. But the request was rejected by congressmen.
This would be the fifth motion against a Peruvian president in the last four years and recalls similar requests that led to the ouster of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in 2018 and Martín Vizcarra in 2020.
In a scenario in which the vacancy request was accepted by the Legislature, the Presidency would be assumed by Castillo’s deputy, Dina Boluarte. Specialists, however, doubt that the right-wing opposition, despite having a majority in Congress, will be able to unite the 87 votes necessary, according to the Peruvian Constitution, to validate the leader’s removal.
Waldemar Cerrón, leader of the ruling Peru Libre bench, told the session that Congress was “wasting time” on the debate. The party’s 37 parliamentarians, despite having publicly disagreed with Castillo in other periods, refused to debate the motion.
Other lawmakers used the speech space to ask for explanations about what they describe as the president’s immoral conduct.
In addition to political pressure, Castillo also faces high levels of disapproval — in February, 70% said they disapproved of his government, according to a survey carried out by the Ipsos institute. The same survey showed that 57% say they want the president to leave office, and 52% say they believe he is involved in corruption.
Facing great political instability since taking office, Castillo has had to change his official cabinet at least four times.
He also faced requests to challenge the election, the resignation of the head of the Armed Forces and occasional dismissals of assistants – for controversial statements, reports of irregularities and for holding a party amid restrictions to contain the Covid pandemic.
One of the most controversial recent points, and which fueled the congressmen’s request, was Castillo’s announcement of a possible national referendum to grant neighboring Bolivia an outlet to the Pacific Ocean through Peruvian territory, an old demand of the Bolivian government, but shelved for years.
The Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs later denied the president’s assertion. Any territorial change would have to receive congressional approval. Still, lawmakers have accused Castillo of betraying the motherland by supporting such a referendum.
Bolivia, on the other hand, welcomed the Peruvian’s signals. Bolivian Mayor Freddy Mamani thanked what he called Castillo’s predisposition. “Without a doubt, it shows the democratic spirit and the will to strengthen the brotherhood relations between the two peoples”, he wrote in a social network.
Rural teacher, Castillo was confirmed president in July last year. He took to the Casa de Pizarro, seat of the Peruvian Executive, a mixture of left-wing populism in the economy with conservative guidelines in customs. The Peruvian is, for example, against gay marriage, abortion and what he calls “gender ideology”.