An optimistic statement by Peru’s imprisoned president is likely to give hope to the tens of thousands of largely indigenous demonstrators who’ve taken to the streets since the leader was detained by security forces after attempting to dissolve the country’s extraordinarily unpopular legislature.
The embattled President of Peru, Pedro Castillo, issued a statement insisting he’ll be released Wednesday, even after a judge denied his appeal and demanded the head of state remain in detention amid what’s being widely characterized as a parliamentary coup.
“Compatriots: tomorrow, Wednesday, December 14, seven days have passed since an unjust and abusive detention,” Castillo wrote in a statement published on his Twitter page. “Seven days in which the people have shown me their solidarity and commitment in defense of our government and its future. Tomorrow at 1:42 p.m. I will go free.”
Peru has been rocked by massive demonstrations this week calling for Castillo to be released from jail and for the dissolution of Congress, which currently holds an approval rating of just 10%.
Tensions in the Andean nation continue to grow, with thousands of largely-indigenous protesters having seized major highways – as well as the airport in Arequipa, the second-most populous city in the country.
Prosecutors are seeking to sentence Castillo to three years in prison for “the alleged crime of rebellion.” He’s been kept under lock and key since security forces detained him on Dec. 7 after he attempted to head off a third congressional impeachment attempt by dissolving the historically-unpopular legislative body.
The armed forces and police of Peru initially issued an ambiguous statement but subsequently moved to detain Castillo, who was reportedly handed over by his driver to a SWAT team as he sought political asylum at the Mexican embassy.
A road sign lays in the street the day after protests that called for the closure of Congress, the resignation of the new President Dina Boluarte and for general elections in Andahuaylas, Peru, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Peru’s President Pedro Castillo was detained on Dec. 7 after he was ousted by lawmakers when he sought to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote.
© AP Photo / Franklin Briceno
The US State Department immediately leapt to the defense of the new regime, with Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols writing just a day later that “we applaud Peruvians as they unite in support of their democracy,” and that “the US welcomes President Boluarte and looks forward to working with her administration to achieve a more democratic, prosperous, and secure region.”
But neighboring governments in Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia and Mexico are insisting that Castillo be released, describing the Peruvian president as the victim of “anti-democratic persecution.” On Tuesday, they issued a joint statement expressing their “deep concern” regarding the situation, which they described as an effort to “reverse the popular will expressed with free suffrage.”
The governments called for Castillo’s human rights to be respected, and reiterated that they continue to recognize Castillo as the legitimate president of Peru.
The government of Honduras also expressed alarm at the “serious constitutional breach.” Hours after Castillo was arrested, the Honduran foreign ministry conveyed its “strong condemnation of the coup d’état that took place in Peru,” which it said is “the result of a series of events to erode democracy.”