Peruvian president turns to OAS for help amid threat of parliamentary coup

President Pedro Castillo has requested the OAS help his government to defend democracy in the face of a new coup against him, promoted by the prosecutor’s office and the opposition-controlled parliament

October 20, 2022 by Tanya Wadhwa
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, on October 19, requested the OAS to help his government defend democracy in the face of a new coup, promoted by the prosecutor’s office and the opposition-controlled parliament. (Photo: Pedro Castillo/Twitter)

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, on Wednesday October 19, announced that he requested that the Organization of American States (OAS) activate and apply the Inter-American Democratic Charter to help his government defend democracy and avoid rupture of constitutional order in the country.

“My government has asked the OAS to activate and apply the Inter-American Democratic Charter to initiate a consultation process with all political forces, state powers, and social forces (…) to find a way that prevents a serious alteration of the democratic order in Peru,” said President Castillo in a televised message to the nation.

President Castillo denounced that the opposition-controlled parliament, the prosecutor’s office, and other public institutions had been planning a coup against him.

“In recent months, a series of events and situations have been occurring in Peru, on the part of the Legislative Branch, the Public Ministry and other constitutional bodies, which, in open contradiction with the constitutional provisions and the norms regulating the separation of powers, (…) have configured a process aimed at altering the democratic order and institutionality,” said the president.

“I must denounce before the country and the international community that this practice of breaking the constitutional and democratic order, the political forces that plunged the country into the largest process of corruption in national history in the 1990s, are the ones that are now promoting a new form of coup d’état in Peru,” he added.

This request came a week after Attorney General Patricia Benavides filed a constitutional complaint against Castillo before Congress, accusing him of corruption and allegedly leading a criminal organization.

In this regard, the head of state, in the national address, stressed that the complaint is “unconstitutional, illegal, baseless and lacks any corroboration and objective evidence,” adding that it puts in “serious threat” the democratic stability and the rule of law in the country.

Castillo also stated that the country’s right-wing and conservative political forces had been making recurrent misuse of legal instruments with the complicity of some magistrates from the prosecutor’s office against him and members of his government. He reiterated that he, his family, and his government are victims of political persecution that began even before he took office in July 2021.

He pointed out that the right-wing first accused him of being a communist, then called him a terrorist, and are now promoting a strategy focused on destroying his image.

“They want me to leave so that they can govern without having been elected,” he said.

Castillo ratified his commitment and loyalty to the Peruvian people and emphasized that despite the odds he would fulfill the mandate for which he was elected and “end this scourge that damages the country.”

OAS Democratic Charter

Castillo formally requested the OAS to activate articles 17 and 18 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Article 17 provides that “when the government of a member state considers that its democratic political institutional process or its legitimate exercise of power is at risk, it may resort to the Secretary General or the Permanent Council in order to request assistance for the strengthening and preservation of democratic institutions.”

Article 18 establishes that “when such situations arise in a member state, the Secretary General or the Permanent Council may, with the prior consent of the affected government, arrange visits and other steps in order to make an analysis of the situation.”

It also establishes that “after making a collective assessment of the situation, if necessary, the Permanent Council may adopt decisions aimed at preserving democratic institutions and strengthening them.”

During his speech, Castillo highlighted that articles “had already been applied in previous opportunities, as in during the political crisis that threatened in 2008 to alter the constitutional and democratic order in Bolivia and that finally allowed a national agreement with the good offices of the OAS.”

The Permanent Council of the OAS has scheduled an extraordinary session for today to address the Peruvian government’s request.

Attorney General’s complaint

Last week, on October 12, after an intense day of raids on congressional offices, arrests and interventions in presidential homes, the country’s Attorney General filed a constitutional complaint with Parliament for the alleged crimes of criminal organization, aggravated influence peddling and alleged accomplice to collusion.

The prosecutor’s office alleged that Castillo was the head of a criminal organization active in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, which in complicity with former Transport Minister Juan Silva, officials of Provías Nacional and Provías Descentralizado, the Presidential Office and businessmen and third parties, favored the Tarata III Bridge consortium and other companies in public bidding processes.

Immediately after the message released by Attorney General Benavides, Congress reported that the constitutional complaint had already been referred to the Subcommittee on Constitutional Accusations.

In the past 15 months in office, Castillo has had six investigations opened against him accusing him of alleged crimes of corruption, criminal organization, influence peddling, accomplice to collusion, personal concealment against the administration of justice, and plagiarism of his master’s thesis.

The president has also faced and survived two vacancy motions. At the moment in Parliament, opposition parties are collecting signatures to seek a third vacancy motion.

He has been forced to reshuffle his cabinet three times, and has changed over three dozen ministers over disputes and disagreements with the Congress. During these months, the Congress has impeached at least three ministers and presented a motion of censure against two dozen ministers.