‘Too many mistakes’: Peruvian president threatened with impeachment after shaky start

President of Peru Pedro Castillo is facing impeachment just four months into the job as his chaotic leftist government stumbles from crisis to crisis.

Lawmakers will vote on Tuesday on whether to start proceedings against him and although the proposal appears unsuccessful, the opposition seems certain to launch other efforts. , the same in the new year.

“It is not whether he will be impeached, but when,” said Denisse Rodríguez-Olivari, a Peruvian political scientist. “That’s the question. Because there were so many mistakes in his government too soon.”

The Presidential Approval Rating, which peaked at 40% in September, has dropped to 25%, according to a recent poll of the Institute of Peruvian Studies. Castillo has lost the support of the majority in all demographics, including rural and poor voters, who supported him.

Based on a survey of Ipsos, about 60% want Peruvian lawmakers to at least debate the impeachment motion, which lists half a dozen reasons why Castillo should not be in office, from allegations of illegal campaign funding to the decision Nicolás Maduro’s resumption of relations with Venezuela. About 30% think he should be sacked.

The opposition would need a two-thirds majority in parliament to remove Castillo from power, which seems unlikely at the moment, but Peru has a record of impeachment of its presidents. The Constitution has special words that make them relatively easy to remove. In 2018, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned as president to avoid impeachment, and last year Martín Vizcarra was also impeached.

ONE farmers and teachers Coming from a remote, poor village in the northern highlands of Peru, Castillo had no experience of public office when he won election in June. His administration was hampered by controversy from begin when he appointed a Marxist as his prime minister.

Guido Bellido stretched only 69 days. Other members of the cabinet have gone – a foreign minister resigns for his comments on the Shining Path, the Maoist group that terrorized Peru in the 1980s and 1990s; an interior minister was expelled for hosting a lavish party despite coronavirus restrictions that he signed into law; and a defense minister quit in a scandal because of bias in deciding which officers should be promoted in the armed forces. On average, Castillo changes a minister every two weeks.

Last month, prosecutors investigating allegations that influential peddlers found $20,000 in cash stashed in a bathroom inside the presidential palace – a scandal dubbed “Watergate” by the local press. “. One of Castillo’s aides said the money was his legitimate savings but dropped it anyway.

There have been policy mistakes. Castillo sent mixed messages on key issues – such as promising to nationalize natural gas reserves one day only to see his comments on Twitter again the next day. after. His new prime minister abruptly announced the government would seek to close four privately owned mines “as soon as possible”, sending the share price of one of the companies down. Acrobatic. Within days, the government was double check its announcement.

Castillo has yet to give a press conference or media interview, and rarely talks about the crises that come from his ministries.

Many of those who voted for him, in the hope of a fresh start and radical change of course in a country long ruled by elites entrenched in Lima, may be ready. willing to forgive his inexperience, but recent accusations of cronyism and pairing could be damaging.

A local TV station aired videos showing Castillo and his officials holding late-night meetings at a friend’s house with people connected to construction and real estate companies. have a contract with the state – contrary to Peruvian law, according to which such meetings should be held in public record. Castillo says the meetings are purely personal.

“I vehemently reject any form of engaging in unusual behavior in favor of any particular interest,” he said in a televised address, arguing that opponents his will “never accept that he is a farmer. . . a teacher, lead this country and drive structural change”.

The people of Peru have seen three of their recent former presidents jailed for involvement in bribery investigations. Back-and-forth scandals have discredited politician after politician in recent years.

Butler Blanca Cabrera, 41, said: “The only difference I see from the rest of our presidents is that Castillo wears a hat. She said that although she did not vote for him, she had at least hoped he could be “less corrupt” than previous leaders. She concluded: “They all want the same.

Supporters of the president say his opponents have been furiously ousting him since June, when his razor-thin electoral victory caused his defeated opponent, Keiko Fujimori, to make baseless accusations of election fraud.

“They tried to get rid of him even before he took office,” said Cesar Rivas, a 31-year-old dietitian in Lima. “Let him be investigated, but he must fulfill his duty. That is democracy.”

The government’s erratic start has taken its toll on the economy. Just days after Castillo’s inauguration, the coin, the sol, breached the $4 mark for the first time and has yet to recover. Former finance minister Waldo Mendoza said the capital flight from Peru in the second and third quarters of this year was the largest in decades.

Esteban Tamayo, an economist at Citibank in Peru, predicts economic growth of 2.9% next year, dragged down by investment growth of just 0.1%.

“Peru has a potential growth rate of around 4% and [under a different administration] could grow even higher than that rate next year,” he said.

Still, Tamayo said, impeaching the president could make Peru’s governance problems worse.

“I think the best political outcome is no impeachment and the government moves on,” he said. “It’s not a great scenario but it will bring relative calm and some investors are starting to understand that.”

Additional reporting by Gideon Long in Bogotá

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