Dina Boluarte became Peru’s first female president on Wednesday, capping off a dramatic day which saw her predecessor detained by police and impeached by lawmakers.
Boluarte, the country’s former Vice President, was sworn into the top job at Congress to become Peru’s sixth president in under five years.
The ceremony took place hours after a majority of 101 members in the 130-person legislative body voted to impeach former leader Pedro Castillo.
The tumultuous day began when then-President Castillo announced plans to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government, ahead of a looming impeachment vote by lawmakers, which Peru’s Ombudsman described as an “attempted coup d’état.”
He also called for parliamentary elections to work on a new constitution.
The move prompting a string of cabinet resignations, fiery reactions from top officials and condemnation from regional neighbors – and ultimately failed to prevent his impeachment in Congress.
Peruvian armed forces rejected Castillo’s attempt to sideline lawmakers, calling it an “infringement of the constitution.”
And Boluarte herself criticized Castillo’s dissolution plan, describing it on Twitter as “a coup that aggravates the political and institutional crisis that Peruvian society will have to overcome with strict adherence to the law.”
International officials joined the chorus of condemnations of Castillo, with the United States urging the leader to “reverse” the move and “allow Peru’s democratic institutions to function according to the Constitution,” US Ambassador in Peru Lisa Kenna said on Twitter.
“We will continue to stand against and to categorically reject any acts that contradict Peru’s constitution, any act that undermines democracy in that country,” said US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price in a statement.
Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “deep concern” over Peru’s political crisis in a statement on Twitterand Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs describted Castillo’s actions as “incompatible with the constitutional framework of that country, represent a violation of democracy and the rule of law” in a statement.
In a stunning turn of events, Castillo was detained by police in capital city Lima, a source with knowledge of the case told CNNE, after lawmakers impeached him in congress.
Images shared from the prefecture showed the former president, wearing a blue jacket, sat around a table while officials signed documents.
Peru’s Ombudsman said on Thursday that they sent a letter to the country’s attorney general to “commence prosecution against former president Pedro Castillo for the attempted coup d’état.”
It is a humiliating end to Castillo’s brief time in office. The former schoolteacher and union leader rose from obscurity to be elected in July 2021 by a narrow margin in a runoff, and was seen as part of a “pink tide” of new left-wing leaders in Latin America.
He ran on a platform promising to rewrite the constitution and increase wealth redistribution by granting states greater control over markets and natural resources, pledges that he has struggled to deliver amid rising inflation in Peru, his lack of political experience and strong conservative opposition in Congress.
The government of the leftist leader had been mired in chaos since inauguration, with dozens of ministers appointed, replaced, sacked or resigned in little over a year – piling further pressure on the beleagured president.
Castillo has railed against the opposition for trying to remove him from the first day he was in office. He has accused Peru’s Attorney General, Patricia Benavides, of orchestrating what he called a new form of “coup d’état” against him through her office’s investigations.
In October, Benavides filed a constitutional complaint against him based on three of the six investigations her office had opened. The complaint allows congress to carry out its own investigation against the president.
Castillo has faced a cascade of investigations on whether he used his position to benefit himself, his family and closest allies by peddling influence to gain favor or preferential treatment, among other claims.
Castillo has repeatedly denied all allegations and reiterated his willingness to cooperate with any investigation. He argues the allegations are a result of a witch-hunt against him and his family from groups that failed to accept his election victory.
The President faces five preliminary criminal investigations on allegations of masterminding corruption schemes while in office. These include prosecutors’ allegation that he led a “criminal network” that interfered with public institutions such as the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Ministry of Housing and Peru’s state-run oil company to control public bidding processes and benefit specific companies and close allies.
Prosecutors are also investigating whether the president led efforts to peddle influence in the process of promoting officers in both the armed forces and national police.
Widening beyond the President himself, these investigations also look into Castillo’s family, including his wife and sister-in-law. First lady Lilia Paredes is being investigated on suspicion of allegedly coordinating the criminal network. Her attorney, Benji Espinoza, has stressed her innocence and argues the investigation against the first lady includes “a number of flaws and omissions.”
And her sister-in-law Yenifer Paredes is under investigation for allegedly being a part of a criminal organization, money laundering and aggravated collusion. She was in custody until a judge revoked her “preventive detention” for 30 months. She too has denied any wrongdoing.
“My daughter, my wife, my entire family have been attacked with the only purpose of destroying me because they don’t want me to finish my term, I promise you I will finish my term, I’m not corrupted,” he said during a televised speech from the Presidential Palace on October 20.
In the same speech, Castillo admitted some of his closest allies should face justice over allegations of corruption, saying, “If they betrayed my trust, let justice take care of them.”
Boluarte’s image has also been tarnished by her own constitutional investigation by congress, which was dismissed on December 5.
Her ascendency may not necessarily ease Peru’s toxic and embittered political landscape as she would need to gain cross party support to be able to govern.
Meanwhile, many Peruvians have been calling for a total reset. In September 2022, 60% of Peruvians said they supported early elections to refresh both the presidency and congress, according to a poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP).