Ousted Peru leader in court for rebellion

Pedro Castillo was ordered to a seven-day preliminary jail sentence as the investigation proceeds.

Pedro Castillo was ordered to a seven-day preliminary jail sentence as the investigation proceeds. Photo: Getty

Peru’s former president Pedro Castillo has faced a first court hearing over his arrest on rebellion charges as his successor issued her first pronouncements from the presidential palace after a day of high drama that shocked the region.

Mr Castillo’s swift fall from power on Wednesday came after congressional lawmakers voted overwhelming to remove him following his failed attempt to rule by decree and dissolve Congress to avoid a third impeachment vote.

His abrupt ouster underscores the Andean country’s recent bouts of intense political instability, with five presidents in just the past five years all unable to complete their elected terms.

Mr Castillo, a former teacher and union activist who won a narrow victory in 2021 buoyed by poor rural and indigenous voters, was arrested Wednesday on criminal charges of “rebellion and conspiracy”, according to prosecutors. He simultaneously faced separate corruption allegations.

Some rural residents peacefully protested his arrest, shouting their lingering support for Mr Castillo on Thursday, according to images shown by broadcaster Canal N, with some chanting in the city of Huancavelica: “New elections are urgent!”

On Wednesday, Reuters video showed police firing tear gas at some Castillo supporters as they held demonstrations in Lima.

The preliminary hearing on Thursday (local time) sought to evaluate the legality of Mr Castillo’s arrest, as well as touch on an inquiry by the attorney-general’s office into charges he orchestrated an alleged rebellion.

A few hours after it ended, Mr Castillo was ordered to a seven-day preliminary jail sentence as the investigation proceeded.

His lawyer Victor Perez rejected the rebellion charge at the hearing, arguing that such an act implied use of weapons and violence, which he said never occurred and that his client’s detention was “illegal” and “arbitrary”.

The former president attended the hearing via teleconference from a Lima prison and was asked if he wanted to address the court, but declined.

Capping the whirlwind of events on Wednesday, Dina Boluarte, Mr Castillo’s vice-president, was sworn in as the South American country’s new president, making her the sixth president in five years and the first woman to lead the nation of some 33 million.

The 17-month tenure of the 53-year-old leftist Mr Castillo was marked by unprecedented turnover among his ministers, as well as multiple corruption scandals which he dismissed as politically motivated efforts by right-wing members of the opposition-controlled Congress set on undermining his government.

Mr Castillo is being held in a police prison in the capital Lima where another former president, Alberto Fujimori, is also being held, a judicial source told Reuters early on Thursday.

Ms Boluarte, 60, could begin to name a new cabinet in the next few days to lead the world’s second-biggest copper producer, with expectations running high that she will opt for a unity government.

In brief comments on Thursday at the presidential palace, Ms Boluarte suggested that calling early elections could be “democratically respectable” but added she wanted to hold additional discussions first.

Fresh elections could help Ms Boluarte soothe pockets of public anger over democratically-elected Mr Castillo’s removal and present detention.


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