Since former President Pedro Castillo’s impeachment and arrest on 7 December, mass protests to demand his release and early elections have partially paralysed parts of the country, some of them escalating into violent clashes with security forces. President Dina Boluarte faces an inquiry launched by Peru’s top prosecutor related to the excessive use of force and deaths of protesters and Castillo supporters. The inquiry, which focuses on crimes such as qualified homicide and genocide, will also include investigations into top cabinet members. In the weeks following Castillo’s impeachment, protests had mainly been concentrated in the Andean region. On 9 January, particularly violent clashes with security forces left dozens of deaths in the country’s southeast. On 19 January, thousands of anti-government protestors from all over the country assembled in the capital, Lima, to demand Boluarte’s resignation. On 21 January, authorities raided Lima’s San Marcos University, detaining nearly 200 people for aggravated encroachment, including students, after anti-government protestors had taken shelter in the facilities. Since Boluarte took office, and up until the end of January, at least 65 people had died in the context of protests. While Boluarte has repeatedly asked Congress to call for early elections, such an initiative has stalled in the legislative branch, and she has refused to resign.
On 7 December, 101 out of 130 members of Congress voted to impeach then-President Pedro Castillo, soon after he announced the dissolution of Congress, alleging that the legislative body had been obstructing his ability to govern. Castillo had been the subject of multiple investigations by Congress and the Attorney General’s office for corruption-related offenses. Castillo was detained and is facing criminal charges. He maintains his commitment to fulfilling his constitutional mandate as president and has sought political asylum in Mexico. Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico have expressed their backing of Castillo. Dina Boluarte, until then Vice-President, assumed the presidency on the evening of his impeachment. Castillo’s supporters have protested throughout the country calling for early elections. On 14 December, Boluarte declared a country-wide state of emergency for 30 days and the suspension of rights with a view to restoring order. Violent clashes between protesters and police, particularly in the southern Andean region, have resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.
A high-level delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) visited Peru in November, pursuant to a resolution from its Permanent Council and after the request of President Pedro Castillo regarding the implementation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter with a view to “preserving the democratic political institutional process and the legitimate exercise of power in Peru”. The delegation met with multiple stakeholders and members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. It also met with the country’s Attorney General and will present a report on its findings. Last month, President Castillo sought the intervention of the OAS and denounced investigations into his administration from the country’s top prosecutor, as well as the filing of a constitutional complaint against him as a new type of coup.
Peru’s chief prosecutor presented Congress a constitutional complaint against President Pedro Castillo for corruption-related offences; it is the first time a sitting president faces a constitutional complaint, a procedure that allows officials with immunity to face accusations for certain offences. Some experts have pointed out that the constitution only permits a sitting president to be charged with specific crimes such as treason. In response, Castillo has argued that such an investigation amounts to a “new modality of a coup”. He requested the Organization of American States (OAS) to implement the Inter-American Democratic Charter which states, among other provisions, that in cases of risk to legitimate exercise of power, member states can request assistance from the OAS to preserve their democratic system. On 20 October the OAS’s Permanent Council adopted a resolution in which a high-level group was appointed to visit Peru and analyse the situation.