Peruvian President Castillo braces for imminent impeachment vote | Political news

Pedro Castillo denies allegations of corruption, accusing economic groups of staging a “coup” against his government.

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo faces an impeachment vote in Congress that could see the newly elected leader ousted just eight months after taking office and plunge the nation into yet another political crisis.

Castillo faced lawmakers in the unicameral legislature on Monday, ahead of a vote likely to take place after midnight.

“I will always face the nation…because I am subject to the rules of due process,” Castillo said at the opening of his hearing.

Congress voted to remove Castillo, a former teacher from a peasant family, earlier in March over corruption allegations. He denied the allegations and blamed them on economic groups seeking a “coup” against his government.

“We were democratically elected and in that respect we are not going to disappoint. I hope this page will be closed today,” Castillo told state television earlier Monday.

The impending impeachment vote comes amid ongoing government infighting that has defined the left-wing leader’s first months as president.

Since the start of the impeachment process, thousands have taken to the streets to demand Castillo’s removal [File: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

Castillo was sworn in in July promising to be a champion of the poor and to improve education, health care and other services, but he struggled to find support from some political groups, including those represented in Congress.

Amid internal political wrangling as well as sustained attacks from the right-wing opposition, Castillo has so far been sworn into four cabinets. A prime minister only lasted three days on the job.

Reporting from Lima, Peru’s capital, Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez said Castillo defended himself before Congress on Monday, saying the motion to impeach him was baseless.

Meanwhile, a group of about 500 protesters, many of whom support Castillo’s impeachment, had gathered outside the hearing. “A lot of others say they want everyone to go,” Sanchez added.

Impeaching and even indicting presidents is not new in Peru. Every Peruvian president for the past 36 years has been ensnared by corruption allegations, and some have been imprisoned. One of them committed suicide before the police could arrest him.

In 2018, former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned ahead of an impeachment vote; Martin Vizcarra was impeached in 2020 and lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to impeach Castillo in December.

Currently, the impeachment vote is slightly in Castillo’s favor, despite the president’s approval poll falling.

The vote earlier this month to press charges against him garnered 76 supporters out of a total of 130 seats. To fire Castillo, lawmakers would need 87 votes in favor.

There were also signs that Castillo’s impeachment bid could fizzle amid doubts from opposition lawmakers in a highly fragmented Congress.

Pedro Castillo
Every Peruvian president in the past 36 years has been ensnared by corruption allegations, some have been jailed [File: Claudia Morales/Reuters]

“Our belief is that presidential impeachment is the solution to our nation’s problems,” said Lourdes Flores, a lawyer and politician supporting the candidacy. “The ball is in Congress’s court.”

But there were also signs that Castillo was facing pressure. Earlier on Monday, prosecutors raided the homes of his former officials and relatives under investigation for alleged corruption.

On Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Lima, the capital, demanding that Castillo be removed from office.

“People can’t take it anymore. We are fed up, the people are asking for justice to be done and for all the corrupt to leave,” said a protester, Claudia Iriarte.

Protesters held up signs reading “national embarrassment” and “power based on lies is illegitimate.”

“Every patriot must support impeachment because the country is in danger, at the hands of a man who has demonstrated that he is not only a liar, but also a corrupt person,” said Maria Del Solar, another protester.

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