Dina Bolvart became Peru’s first female president on Wednesday, ending a dramatic day in which her predecessor was arrested on charges of rebellion and impeached by lawmakers.
Boluvarte, a former vice president of Congress, was sworn in as Peru’s sixth president in five years.
The ceremony came hours after a majority of 101 members of the 130-member assembly 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 lawmakers’ impeachment vote, which Peru’s ombudsman called an “attempted coup.”
He also demanded that parliamentary elections be held to work for a new constitution.
The move prompted a string of cabinet resignations, heated reactions from top officials and condemnation from local neighbors — ultimately failing to prevent his impeachment in Congress.
The Peruvian armed forces rejected Castillo’s attempt to sideline lawmakers, calling it a “violation of the constitution.”
Bolwart himself criticized Castillo’s dismissal plan, calling it a “coup that exacerbates a political and institutional crisis that Peruvian society must overcome by strictly following the law” on Twitter.
International officials joined the chorus of condemnation of Castillo, urging the US leader to “reverse” the move and “allow Peru’s democratic institutions to function according to the constitution,” said US Ambassador to Peru Lisa Kenna. said on Twitter.
“We will stand firm against and reject any actions that are contrary to Peru’s constitution and undermine that country’s democracy,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Argentina’s foreign ministry expressed “deep concern” over the political crisis in Peruna statement on TwitterBrazil’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Castillo’s actions were “incompatible with the constitutional framework of that country, [and] Represents a violation of democracy and the rule of law.
In a surprising turn of events, Castillo was detained by police in the capital city of Lima after lawmakers impeached him in Congress.
Pictures shared from the prefecture showed the former president, wearing a blue jacket, sitting around a table as officials signed documents.
Peru’s attorney general’s office said in a statement that Castillo was arrested on charges of rebellion for “violating the constitutional order.”
“We condemn the violation of constitutional order,” Peru’s Attorney General Patricia Benavides said in a statement. “The political constitution of Peru represents the separation of powers and establishes that Peru is a democratic sovereign republic … No authority can place itself above the constitution and must abide by its constitutional mandates.”
It’s a humiliating end to Castillo’s short time in office. The former schoolteacher and union leader rose from obscurity to be elected by a narrow margin in a runoff in July 2021, 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, giving states more control over markets and natural resources, amid Peru’s rising inflation, political inexperience and fierce conservative opposition in Congress.
The Left leader’s government has been mired in chaos since taking office, with dozens of ministers appointed, replaced, sacked or resigned in less than a year – putting more pressure on him.
Castillo lashed out at the opposition for trying to remove him on his first day in office. He accused Benavides of orchestrating a new form of “coup” against him through his office’s investigations.
In October, Benavides filed a constitutional complaint against Castillo based on three of the six investigations her office had opened. The complaint allows Congress to conduct its own investigation into the former president.
Castillo has faced a cascade of investigations into whether he used his position to benefit himself, his family and closest associates.
Castillo has repeatedly denied all allegations and reiterated his willingness to cooperate with any investigation. He maintains that the charges are the result of a witch hunt against him and his family by groups that failed to acknowledge his election victory.
The former president is facing five preliminary criminal investigations into alleged corruption schemes while in office. This includes prosecutors’ accusations that he led a “criminal network” that interfered with public institutions such as the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Housing and Peru’s state oil company to manipulate public bidding processes and benefit specific companies and close allies.
Prosecutors are also investigating whether the former president led efforts to influence the promotion process for officers in the armed forces and national police.
The investigations are also looking into Castillo’s family, including his wife and sister-in-law. Former first lady Lilia Paredes is under investigation for allegedly coordinating a criminal network. Her lawyer, Benji Espinosa, emphasized her innocence and argued that the investigation against the former first lady involved “numerous errors and omissions.”
Her sister-in-law, Yennefer Paredes, is under investigation on charges of being part of a criminal organization, money laundering and aggravated conspiracy. She remained in custody until a judge revoked her “preventive detention” for 30 months. She also denied any wrongdoing.
“My daughter, my wife and my whole family were attacked with the intention of destroying me because they don’t want me to finish my term, I promise you I will finish my term, I’m not corrupt,” Castillo said. During a televised speech from Rashtrapati Bhavan on October 20.
In the same speech, Castillo acknowledged that some of his closest allies should face justice on corruption charges, saying, “If they have betrayed my trust, let justice take care of them.”
Congress’s own constitutional inquiry, which was dismissed on December 5, also tarnished President Bolwart’s image.
Her ascension will not necessarily ease Peru’s toxic and turbulent political landscape, as she will need to garner cross-party support in order to govern.
Meanwhile, many Peruvians are calling for a total reset. According to a poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP), in September 2022, 60% of Peruvians said they supported early elections to renew the presidency and Congress.