Peruvian president avoids impeachment after marathon debate | Political news

Pedro Castillo, was charged with corruption and moral incapacity, but survived the vote after an eight-hour debate.

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo on Monday avoided impeachment by the country’s opposition-dominated legislature after a parliamentary debate lasting more than eight hours.

Fifty-five lawmakers voted in favor of impeachment, 54 voted against and 19 abstained. Critics of the president needed 87 votes to impeach the leader, accused of corruption and moral incapacity.

“I will always face the nation…because I am subject to the rules of due process,” Castillo said at the opening of the hearing.

Congress voted to remove Castillo, a former teacher from a peasant family, earlier in March over corruption allegations. He denied the allegations and blamed them on economic groups seeking a “coup” against his government.

“We were democratically elected and in that respect we are not going to disappoint. I hope this page will be closed today,” Castillo told state television earlier in the day.

The impeachment vote came amid infighting in government that defined the left-wing leader’s first months as president.

Since the start of the impeachment process, thousands have taken to the streets to demand Castillo’s removal [File: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters]

Castillo was sworn in in July promising to be a champion of the poor and to improve education, health care and other services, but he struggled to find support from some political groups, including those represented in Congress.

Amid internal political wrangling as well as sustained attacks from the right-wing opposition, Castillo has so far been sworn in to four cabinets. A prime minister only lasted three days on the job.

Reporting from Lima, Peru’s capital, Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez said Castillo defended himself before Congress on Monday, saying the motion to impeach him was baseless.

Meanwhile, a group of about 500 protesters, many of whom support Castillo’s impeachment, had gathered outside the hearing. “A lot of others say they want everyone to go,” Sanchez added.

Impeachment and even indicting presidents is not new in Peru. Every Peruvian president for the past 36 years has been ensnared by corruption allegations, and some have been imprisoned. One of them committed suicide before the police could arrest him.

In 2018, former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned ahead of an impeachment vote; Martin Vizcarra was impeached in 2020 and lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to impeach Castillo in December.

Even before the vote, there were signs Castillo’s impeachment bid could fizzle amid doubts from opposition lawmakers in a highly fragmented Congress.

Pedro Castillo
Every Peruvian president in the past 36 years has been ensnared by corruption allegations, some have been jailed [File: Claudia Morales/Reuters]

But there were also signs that Castillo was under pressure as prosecutors raided the homes of his former officials and relatives under investigation for alleged corruption.

On Sunday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Lima, the capital, demanding that Castillo be removed from office.

“People can’t take it anymore. We are fed up, the people are asking for justice to be done and for all the corrupt to leave,” said a protester, Claudia Iriarte.

Protesters held up signs reading “national embarrassment” and “power based on lies is illegitimate.”

“Every patriot must support impeachment because the country is in danger, at the hands of a man who has demonstrated that he is not only a liar, but also a corrupt person,” said Maria Del Solar, another protester.