Harassed by the right-wing parliamentary opposition that is maneuvering to remove him, the president Pedro Castillo has obtained a legal victory against his accusers. The Constitutional Court (TC) decided to annul the process for treason against the country that Congress was advancing against the president. In this case, the parliamentary right wanted to remove Castillo from the presidency, something that it has been looking for since the rural teacher took office in July 2021. The highest judicial court in the country determined that the accusation of treason against the president had no basis, so that the political trial in Congress for this case is without effect. The TC ruled in response to a writ of habeas corpus filed by Castillo against that accusation. The ruling of the TC has been a hard blow for the opposition bloc of the right, in which a coup ultra-right predominates that promoted this accusation.
The accusation of treason against the head of state with which they sought to overthrow him from the presidency is not based on any action or commitment of the government, but on a journalistic statement by the president. In an interview with CNN last January, Castillo confirmed that at a teachers’ event in La Paz in 2018, when he was a union leader of the teachers’ union and was far from thinking of being a presidential candidate, he had expressed himself in favor of the Bolivian aspiration for an outlet to the sea, ratified his sympathy with that demand and spoke of the possibility of a referendum on Bolivia’s possible access to the Pacific through the southern coast of Peru. The matter remained in those statements, which did not generate any government measure. The government quickly clarified that the president’s statement did not imply a possible cession of sovereignty, but rather referred to deepening agreements with Bolivia that give it easier access to the sea through Peruvian territory, agreements that began three decades ago. But a right wing desperate to find an excuse to remove Castillo decided to push things to the point of absurdity and charge him with treason for that statement. An untenable accusation that has been dropped with the sentence of the TC.
“There is not enough motivation (evidence) in the complaint. We are before a statement. There are no elements that suggest a crime. There is no criminal conduct (of Castillo)”, said the lawyer Manuel Monteagudo, a member of the TC.
The six TC magistrates who unanimously adopted the judicial decision in favor of Castillo were appointed a few months ago by the right-wing parliamentary majority and cannot be accused of having sympathies with Castillo or political motivations contrary to the right that appointed them. This has given more weight to his sentence. This TC ruling has revealed the attitude of a sector of Congress to resort to any resource to remove the president, including inventing a crime of treason with unusual arguments.
Castle’s lawyerBenji Espinoza, highlighted the TC’s decision and did not miss the opportunity to shoot at the president’s accusers. “This ruling has powerful legal reasons. We always said that this complaint for treason against the homeland was a hogwash.”
Despite the notorious lack of arguments in this complaint, the Subcommittee on Constitutional Accusations of Congress approved it by eleven votes to ten, with which the case passed to the Permanent Commission as a second parliamentary instance, where it was yet to be seen when the decision of the TC dropped the accusation. If the process had gone ahead, the case could have reached the plenary session of Congress for a final vote to remove Castillo. That will no longer happen because the TC has ordered this process to be annulled. NeverthelessDespite the forcefulness of the TC ruling, there are legislators who do not rule out insisting on the issue by presenting a new accusation. “Insisting on this complaint will be evaluated with better support,” announced, without wanting to concede total defeat, the president of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Accusations, Lady Camones. The problem for the defenders of this insistence is that there is no way to find support for an accusation that makes no sense, motivated solely by the interest of removing Castillo from government. They risk repeating the ridicule in which the TC sentence that derailed their accusation has left them.
The other complaints
This treason complaint has been dropped, but others await Castillo that can complicate it. A parliamentary process of accusation against him for corruption -benefiting from public tenders- is still underway, which may end in his dismissal. The case is in the first parliamentary instance of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Accusations. Despite the fact that the Constitution does not allow a president to be accused during the exercise of his term of office for the corruption charges that the prosecutor’s office imputes to Castillo – he can only be prosecuted for treason, preventing the elections or closing Congress without complying with the legal requirements for this – the opposition continues with this process. From the parliamentary and media right, it is promoted not to comply with the constitutional article that protects the president from this accusation. It is a questioned article, but valid. In parallel, the parliamentary and media right press to win support for a third request for Castillo’s dismissal on the ambiguous charge of moral incapacity. Two previous attempts to apply this mechanism, which requires a two-thirds vote of Congress, have already failed.
Struck by this judicial defeat in the Constitutional Court, right-wing congressmen secretly met in an emergency -although the secret did not last long- outside Congress, in an atmosphere of conspiracy in the house of a legislator, to plan a counterattack. After that meeting they announced the presentation of a motion to suspend the president for one year, thus removing him from office, arguing the corruption charge against him made by the prosecution. It is a way to accelerate the fall of Castillo for this cause without going through the process of impeachment, and to avoid questions about the legality of that impeachment trial for the charges that are being raised. The problem for the right is that applying this figure of suspension would mean forcing the Constitution. Another way for the parliamentary coup.
The ruling of the TC that has exposed a right wing that has sought to remove the president with an accusation without a basis to support it, occurred when the visit to Peru made this week by a mission from the Organization of States came to an end. Americans (OEA) to analyze, precisely, the government’s denunciation of a coup plan from the opposition Congress. The history of the accusation for treason reinforces this denunciation of the government.
Castillo has achieved a victory and takes a breath, the parliamentary right is hit and is left in a very bad position, but the war between the two has not been resolved. With an authoritarian, clumsy, arrogant, ultra-conservative parliamentary opposition, with an agenda that has as its exclusive objective the dismissal of Castillo and with old and close ties to corruption and dark economic interestsY with an Executive that has repeatedly shown incompetence, who beyond the discourse on government policies has left aside the proposals for change with which Castillo won the elections and who is facing corruption scandals, this is a war between two discredited powers. In this shared discredit, the rejection of the Congress controlled by the right is greater. According to a recent survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studiesthe very low approval of Congress fell last month from 15 to 13 percent, while the rejection of lawmakers rose from 78 to 81 percent. Castillo is doing better, but it cannot be said that well. Despite the spate of accusations against him, his acceptance has risen slightly in the past month, from 25 to 28 percent, and his disapproval has dropped from 65 to 62 percent. Neither has been able to mobilize significant support in the streets.