Peru's ousted president Pedro Castillo will remain jailed

Peru’s ousted president Pedro Castillo is ordered to remain behind bars for 18 MONTHS after ‘failed coup’ sparked unrest and triggered state of emergency in South American nation

  • Pedro Castillo is facing a detention order that extends to June 2024
  • It follows his arrest last week sparking deadly unrest and protests  in Peru  
  • He could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of rebellion and conspiracy

Peru’s ousted president, Pedro Castillo, has been ordered to remain behind bars for another 18 months following his arrest last week that sparked deadly unrest in the nation. 

Castillo is to be kept in custody as a Supreme Court Judge said he posed a flight risk when trying to seek asylum at the Mexican embassy in Lima. 

The leftist former school teacher is facing a detention order that extends to June 2024 after he tried to dissolve the legislature and announced he would rule by decree.

His opponents claimed that this was a bid to dodge an impeachment vote, amid several corruption probes targeting him.

Ousted president Pedro Castillo could be jailed for up to 10 years if found guilty of rebellion and conspiracy

Castillo now stands accused of rebellion and conspiracy and could be jailed for up to 10 years if found guilty, according to public prosecutor Alcides Diaz.

Protests erupted after Castillo was voted out of power by lawmakers last week, following his attempt to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote. 

The judge’s decision came a day after the government declared a police state as it struggles to calm violent protests that have led to at least eight deaths.

The latest political crisis has only deepened the instability gripping the country, with six presidents coming and going in as many years. 

Judge Cesar San Martin Castro’s ruling came days after Congress stripped Castillo of the privilege that keeps Peru’s presidents from facing criminal charges.

Protests erupted after Castillo was voted out of power by lawmakers last week, following his attempt to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote

Castillo and his legal team refused to participate in Thursday’s virtual hearing, arguing it lacked ‘minimum guarantees.’ 

Peru’s Supreme Prosecutor Alcides Chinchay said in court Thursday that Castillo faces at least 10 years in prison for the rebellion charge.

Meanwhile, a large group of protesters – and police in riot gear – gathered in central Lima Thursday evening. 

The government also imposed a curfew in at least 15 communities, as allowed by the nationwide emergency declaration issued Wednesday.

The protesters were demanding Castillo’s freedom, the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, and the immediate scheduling of general elections to pick a new president and members of Congress. 

They have burned police stations, taken over an airstrip used by the armed forces and invaded the runway of the international airport in Arequipa, a gateway to some of Peru’s tourist attractions.

Thousands of tourists have been affected by the protests. The passenger train that carries visitors to Machu Picchu suspended service, and roadblocks on the Pan-American Highway stranded trailer trucks for days, spoiling food bound for the capital.

In Cusco, a top tourist destination, people were stuck Thursday at hotels and the airport. Among them are 20 citizens of Ecuador, according to a statement from that country’s foreign affairs ministry.

‘I was about to return to Ecuador on Monday, and unfortunately, they told us that all flights were canceled due to the protests,’ said Karen Marcillo, 28, who has had to sleep at the Teniente Alejandro Velasco Astete airport in Cusco. 

The judge’s decision to keep Castillo behind bars came a day after the government declared a police state as it struggles to calm violent protests that have led to at least eight deaths

Peru’s tourism industry is still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, which reduced visitations last year to 400,000, down from 4.4 million in 2019.

While in office, Castillo spent much of his time defending himself against attacks from an adversarial Congress and investigations ranging from corruption to plagiarism. 

Now, it remains unclear whether Boluarte – once his running mate and vice president – will get a chance to govern. Just like Castillo, she is a newcomer to politics without a base in Congress.

‘She’s doing a good job right now for the moment,’ said Cynthia McClintock, a political science professor at George Washington University who has studied Peru extensively. ‘But it’s a big challenge.’

While some protesters ‘seem to want kind of instability at any cost,’ McClintock said, others saw his ouster as an opening to express simmering grievances, such as deep inequality, poverty and lack of public services.

Boluarte though may be given some breathing room by lawmakers seeking to keep their jobs. 

They cannot pursue re-election and would be jobless if a general election for Congress is scheduled, as protesters want.

Boluarte on Wednesday sought to placate protesters by saying general elections could potentially be scheduled for December 2023, four months earlier than the timing she had proposed to Congress just a few days earlier.

All of the protest-related deaths have occurred in rural, impoverished communities outside Lima that are strongholds for Castillo, a political neophyte and former schoolteacher from a poor Andean mountain district.

In Andahuaylas, where at least four people have died since the demonstrations began, no soldiers were on the streets Thursday despite the government declaration allowing the armed forces to help maintain public order.

Some grocery store owners there were cleaning the roads littered with rocks and burned tires, but they planned to close their doors because of the expected protests led by people from nearby rural communities.

Castillo’s attempt to dissolve Congress came ahead of lawmakers’ third attempt to impeach him since he was elected in July 2021. 

After Congress voted him out of power, Castillo’s vehicle was intercepted as he traveled through Lima’s streets with his security detail.

Chinchay, the government’s top prosecutor, insisted Castillo is a flight risk, saying he was trying to reach the Mexican Embassy to seek asylum after he left the presidential palace.

‘We do not believe that he wanted to go to the Mexican Embassy to have tea,’ Chinchay said.

In issuing his ruling, Castro said said a ‘concrete flight risk’ still exists in Castillo’s case and ‘remains latent over time. 

He cited Castillo’s apparent effort to reach the Mexican Embassy, remarks from Mexico’s president and foreign minister regarding their country’s willingness to offer him asylum, and a jail visit he received from Mexico’s ambassador in Peru.

Castillo’s public defender, Italo Díaz, rejected that the former president is a flight risk. He told the judge Castillo’s children and wife depend on him and he could return to his teaching job if freed.

The state of emergency declaration suspends the rights of assembly and freedom of movement and empowers the police, supported by the military, to search people’s homes without permission or judicial order.

Defense Minister Luis Otarola Peñaranda said the declaration was agreed to by the council of ministers.

On Wednesday, Boluarte pleaded for calm as demonstrations continued against her and Congress.

‘Peru cannot overflow with blood,’ she said.

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