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New president pledges to heal Peru's wounds

Updated: 2022-12-09 07:05

Dina Boluarte attends a swearing-in ceremony to become Peru's new president during a Congress session in Lima on Wednesday. [Photo/Agencies]

Boluarte's embattled predecessor ousted, arrested after bid to dissolve Congress

LIMA, Peru — Peru swore in a new leader on Wednesday after a day of political drama that saw Pedro Castillo arrested after his ousting from office in an impeachment trial, following his last-ditch bid to cling to power by dissolving Congress.

Ignoring Castillo's attempt to shut down the legislature by decree, lawmakers moved ahead with the previously planned trial, with 101 votes in favor of removing him, six against and 10 abstentions.

The result was announced to loud cheers, and the legislature called on Vice-President Dina Boluarte to take office.

The 60-year-old was sworn in as president through 2026, making her the first woman to lead the Andean nation. She called for a political truce after months of instability, including two prior impeachment attempts, and said a new cabinet inclusive of all political stripes would be formed.

"What I ask for is a space, a time to rescue the country," she said.

Born in the southern Apurimac region, Boluarte is a trained lawyer with a master's degree from San Martin de Porres University. Last year, she assumed the vice-presidency and also served as minister of development and social inclusion.

She lambasted Castillo's move to dissolve Congress as an "attempted coup".

The Public Ministry said on Wednesday that Castillo had been detained and accused of the crimes of "rebellion" and "conspiracy" for breaking the constitutional order.

Castillo was later transferred to a police facility in eastern Lima, where graft-convicted former president Alberto Fujimori — himself removed by Congress in 2000 — is serving out his sentence.

Castillo earlier had said he would temporarily shut down Congress, launch a "government of exception", and call for new legislative elections. That sparked resignations by his ministers amid angry accusations from both opposition politicians and his allies that he was attempting a coup.

On Wednesday, some small street protests took place. In Lima, dozens of people waving Peruvian flags cheered Castillo's downfall. Elsewhere in the capital and in Arequipa city, his supporters marched and clashed with police.

Political instability

Peru is no stranger to political instability. It is now on its sixth president since 2016, and it had three different presidents during one five-day period in 2020.

After Wednesday's attempt to dissolve Congress, Castillo's allies abandoned him and regional powers voiced deep concern and underlined the need for "democratic stability".

"The United States categorically rejects any extra constitutional act by President Castillo to prevent Congress from fulfilling its mandate," Lisa Kenna, the US ambassador to Peru, wrote on Twitter.

Later on Wednesday, the US State Department welcomed Boluarte's appointment in a statement.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, president-elect of Brazil, said in a statement: "I followed with great concern the events that led to the constitutional removal of the president of Peru, Pedro Castillo. It is always regrettable that a democratically elected president has this fate, but I understand that everything was forwarded in the constitutional framework."

The turmoil rattled markets in the world's number two copper producer, but Andres Abadia, chief Latin America economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said Peru's financial markets will suffer, but won't collapse, thanks mainly to solid domestic fundamentals.


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