Peru Congress to make third attempt to impeach president
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, dressed in typical Andean attire, speaks during a massive rally calling for political and economic stability in Juliaca, Puno region, Peru in December 2021 Carlos MAMANI AFP/File

Peru's opposition-dominated Congress will on Wednesday debate whether to impeach President Pedro Castillo in the third attempt to unseat him since his election a year and a half ago.

Castillo, a former school teacher who unexpectedly took power from Peru's traditional political elite, has faced non-stop crises since coming to office, with repeated cabinet reshuffles, multiple corruption investigations and protests against his leadership.

The opposition seeks to impeach him for moral incapacity, a constitutional provision that has seen two presidents sacked since 2018.

The debate will open at 3:00 pm local time (2000 GMT) and could last for hours.

Congress will require 87 votes to impeach Castillo. The opposition currently has 80 of the 130 parliamentary seats, and would have to convince some of the ruling party lawmakers or their allies to vote along with them to succeed.

In March, Castillo avoided impeachment after a debate that lasted more than eight hours, with only 55 legislators voting in favor.

However, he has remained under fire, recently appointing his fifth prime minister and cabinet since his July 2021 election, while thousands took to the streets in November to demand his removal from office.

Castillo is also under investigation in six corruption cases, including accusations against his family and political entourage.

The president will have 60 minutes to defend himself in front of Congress.

"They intend to blow up democracy and disregard the people's right to choose... to the power that the people took from them at the polls," Castillo said Tuesday.

"I have never stolen from my country, I am not corrupt," he said.

'No room for a truce'

If he is impeached, he will be replaced by his vice president, Dina Boluarte, although if she resigns, the head of Congress Jose Williams will step into the top job.

Castillo, 53, has been locked in a power struggle with Congress since the attorney general filed a complaint accusing Castillo of heading a criminal organization involving his family and allies that hands out public contracts in exchange for money.

While serving his five-year term that ends in 2026 Castillo cannot be criminally tried and prosecutors have called for him to be "suspended," a move which Congress is evaluating, but which has no precedent.

In October, Castillo requested mediation by the Organization of American States (OAS), saying the attempts to remove him were "a coup in progress."

The body visited the country in November and called for a "100 day political truce," which fell on deaf ears.

"There is no room for a truce, nobody wants to talk with a president like Pedro Castillo, who does not project confidence," political analyst Augusto Alvarez told AFP.

Impeachment proceedings are relatively common in Peru because its constitution allows for one to be brought against a president based on the more subjective premise of political rather than legal wrongdoing.

It has created much political instability: In November 2020, Peru had three presidents within one week.

The OAS's human rights commission last year raised concerns about the "moral incapacity" constitutional provision, saying it had been distorted due to "a lack of objective definition."

© 2022 AFP