Peru swears in first female president after Castillo exit
Peru’s Vice President Dina Boluarte took over as head of state after President Pedro Castillo triggered a political crisis by attempting to dissolve congress in what the constitutional tribunal described as a coup.
Congress swore in Boluarte as the new president during a ceremony in Lima on Wednesday while Castillo was detained by police after congress voted overwhelmingly to impeach him. She will be the sixth president of the politically volatile nation since the start of 2018, and the first woman to be head of state.
In her inaugural address after a day of intense political drama, Boluarte said she would seek a government of national unity and pledged to fight the “shameful” corruption that afflicts the country. She also denounced Castillo’s earlier attempt to dissolve the unicameral legislature.
There has been an attempted coup d’etat. I assume the position of President of the Republic being aware of the responsibility that requires of meDina Boluarte
“There has been an attempted coup d’etat,” Boluarte said in her speech. “I assume the position of President of the Republic being aware of the responsibility that requires of me.”
Castillo’s attempt to suspend congress for nine months, write a new constitution and impose a curfew triggered an immediate backlash from lawmakers, the armed forces, the constitutional tribunal and his own cabinet, with ministers resigning en masse.
In the impeachment vote, 101 lawmakers voted to oust Castillo for “permanent moral incapacity”, six voted against and 10 abstained. The leader had survived two previous impeachment attempts since taking office in July 2021.
The resignations of cabinet ministers came almost as soon as Castillo made his announcement, and the armed forces issued a statement saying they opposed any attempt to break the constitutional order. Even several members of Castillo’s own party backed the impeachment motion.
“Ministers known these months as being very close to Pedro Castillo didn’t hesitate to resign minutes after the announcement of the dissolution of the congress,” Alexandra Ames, a Peru-based political scientist, said. “Castillo hasn’t been a president who has stood out for having very elaborate political calculations, but even so the tremendous political mistake is surprising.”
Peru’s sol tumbled as much 1.7% against the dollar after Castillo’s attempt to shut congress, then reversed losses as the power grab fell apart. The benchmark stock index pared trimmed losses once he was removed and dollar bonds ended the day higher.
“Boluarte is not necessarily perceived as market friendly, but the general sentiment is that anyone is better than Castillo,” said Valerie Ho, a portfolio manager at Doubleline Group in Los Angeles. “Her cabinet appointments will be an important signpost.”
The move revived memories of the decision by former leader Alberto Fujimori in 1992 to dissolve congress. At that time, he was supported by his ministers and the military.
While the dissolution of congress is a constitutional prerogative for Peru’s president, it needs to follow two censure votes by congress of the cabinet, which didn’t happen during Castillo’s administration.
The move also triggered international outcry, with Brian Nichols, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, saying that the US “categorically” rejected any acts by Castillo to prevent congress from carrying out its mandate. Later in the day, Brazil’s President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for dialog and saying he hopes Boluarte succeeds in the task of reconciling the country.
“I understand that everything was carried out within the constitutional framework,” Lula said in a statement. “It is always a pity that a democratically elected president meets this fate.”
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.