Peruvian President proposes to eliminate immunity for state officials

President Pedro Castillo has announced that he would soon present a bill to eliminate immunity for all high-ranking state officials in order to promote transparency

June 01, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Peru President Pedro Castillo
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo announced on May 30 that he would present a bill to eliminate immunity for all high-ranking government officials in order to promote transparency. (Photo: Peruvian Presidency/Twitter)

On May 30, Peruvian President Pedro Castillo announced that the executive branch would soon present a bill to eliminate immunity for all high-ranking state officials in order to promote transparency. The head of state made the announcement during the closing ceremony of the Decentralized Council of Ministers in the Loreto region.

“We are going to present a bill to eliminate immunity for all high-ranking state officials. Do you want transparency and investigation? Then let us all submit: the Executive Power, the Legislative Power, the Judicial Power, the Public Ministry, all State officials (to any investigation in order) to make the country transparent and work hand in hand,” said Castillo.

The announcement came a day after the Prosecutor’s Office decided to open a preliminary investigation against the president for the alleged crimes of criminal organization, aggravated influence peddling and aggravated collusion. Since the beginning of May, the Prosecutor’s Office has been carrying out an investigation against the former Transport Minister Juan Silva and six congressmen of the opposition center-right Popular Action party for irregularities in the tender for the construction of Tarata III Bridge. Businesswoman Karelim López, who is currently being investigated for money laundering, alleged that Silva accepted bribes in exchange for the public work with Castillo’s authorization.

Regarding the investigation initiated against him, Castillo said that “I have not stolen a penny from the country, I have not come for that, in this context, I must say that we have presented 34 bills to the Congress, which concern what the Peruvian people are asking for.” He added that he and his administration are victims of political persecution. “I must say with indignation that today an irrational political persecution has been unleashed against me, the President of the Republic, and also against different ministers,” he stated.

President Castillo’s lawyer Benji Espinoza criticized the actions of national prosecutor Pablo Sánchez and stressed that the investigation against the president violates the constitution. “The Constitution says that he (President Castillo) cannot be accused, it means that he cannot be prosecuted, that he cannot even be investigated. The President of the Republic considers himself innocent and denies the charges that are being raised against him,” Espinoza told RPP.

Article 99 of the Political Constitution of Peru establishes that “only the Permanent Commission of the Congress has the authority to accuse before Congress: the President of the Republic; the representatives to Congress; the ministers of State; the members of the Constitutional Court; the members of the National Council of the Judiciary; the members of the Supreme Court; the supreme prosecutors; the Ombudsman and the Comptroller General for infraction of the Constitution and for any crime committed in the exercise of their functions and up to 5 years after they have ceased in these.” Additionally, according to article 117, “the President of the Republic can only be accused, during his term, of treason against the country; for preventing presidential, parliamentary, regional or municipal elections; for dissolving Congress.”

In less than one year of government, Castillo has had four investigations opened against him, accusing him of allegedly having committed various crimes. Before prosecutor Sánchez included him in the investigation against Silva, the head of state was already being investigated for alleged plagiarism of his master’s thesis, alleged case of corruption in biodiesel B100 tender in Petroperú, and alleged interference in promotions of the Armed Forces, formulated by former prosecutor Zoraida Ávalos.

Since its inauguration in late July 2021, the socialist government of Castillo has been constantly attacked by the right-wing oligarchy that controls public agencies in the country. The far-right sectors have been running smear campaigns in mainstream media against Castillo, his ministers and members of the ruling left-wing Free Peru party. The opposition controlled Congress, taking advantage of these campaigns, has been regularly presenting impeachment motions against Castillo and his cabinet ministers. The country’s so-called independent judiciary has been supporting their baseless accusations unconstitutionally.

In the last ten months in office, Castillo has faced and survived two vacancy motions, has been forced to reshuffle his cabinet three times, and has changed around two dozen ministers over disputes and disagreements with the Congress. During these months, the congress has impeached at least three ministers and has presented a motion of censure against over a dozen ministers.