Former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo has rejected allegations of conspiracy and rebellion, after he was ousted and arrested last week. His court appearance on Tuesday came amid ongoing protests by Castillo’s supporters that have seen at least seven people killed.
Castillo was impeached and arrested on December 7, after he announced plans to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government ahead of a looming House vote.
Dina Boulwart, his former vice president, has since become president. On Monday, Boulwart proposed moving the general election date forward by two years to April 2024 during a televised address.
During a virtual court hearing on Tuesday to appeal his seven-day detention order, Castillo told Judge Cesar San Martin, “I have never committed the crime of conspiracy or rebellion” and called his detention arbitrary and unfair.
“I will never resign and abandon this grassroots cause,” said Castillo, who was wearing a blue vest and sitting next to his attorney, Ronald Atensio.
I would like to urge the armed forces and the national police to lay down their arms and stop killing those who are thirsty for justice. Tomorrow at 1:42pm I want my people to join me…” he said as well before being interrupted by the judge.
Since last week, demonstrations have taken place in cities across the country in support of Castillo, sometimes marked by clashes with Peruvian security forces.
At least seven people have died in the demonstrations, including two minors, the Peruvian Ombudsman’s press office told CNNE on Tuesday. There were two deaths on Sunday and five on Monday.
The demonstrators demanded general elections, the dissolution of Congress, and the creation of a new Constituent Assembly, according to Radio Programas del Perú, a radio and television presenter.
On Tuesday, Boulwart called for the return of calm to the country and said it had instructed the police not to use any lethal weapons against the demonstrators.
Bulwart added, “Everyone has the right to protest but not to commit acts of vandalism, burning hospitals, ambulances and police stations, assaulting airports, (these) are not normal protests, we have gone to extremes.”
Peru Rail said in a statement that trains to and from Machu Picchu will be halted starting Tuesday due to the Peruvian protests.
“We regret the inconvenience these advertisements cause to our passengers; however, they are due to situations beyond the control of our company and seek to prioritize the safety of passengers and personnel.”
Flights were also disrupted by the protests, with LATAM Airlines Peru announcing the temporary suspension of services to and from airports in the cities of Arequipa and Cuzco.
Protesters attempted to storm the terminal at Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cuzco on Monday, according to Peru’s Corporation of Airports and Commercial Aviation (CORpac).
There have been no reports so far of injuries, arrests or damage at the airport, according to Korbak.
LATAM countries called on the Peruvian authorities to take “corrective measures to ensure the safety” of its flight operations.
“We regret the inconvenience this situation beyond our control caused to our passengers,” she added.
Peru’s National Police said that as of Monday evening, there were national roadblocks in at least 11 regions of the country.
In addition, the government declared a state of emergency in seven provinces in the Apurimac region in south-central Peru.
Peru has suffered from political instability in recent years, with many Peruvians calling for political change, according to a September poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies, which found that 60% of those surveyed supported early elections to modernize the presidency and Congress.
It is unclear whether Bulwart’s accession to the presidency could command widespread political support.
Fernando Tuesta Soldevilla, professor of political science at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, said that Boulwart “has no recognized political career”. “And without party support, political party or social organization behind it, it is weak from the start.”
“Everyone knows when Dina Polwart’s government started, but no one can be sure how long it will last,” he told CNN.
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