Peru’s judiciary extends preventive detention of Pedro Castillo by 36 months

Supporters of the ousted president argue that the Peruvian judiciary is unfairly targeting Castillo while those responsible for killings of civilian protesters walk free

March 10, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo was ousted and arrested on December 7, 2022. Photo: Archives

On Thursday March 9, the judiciary of Peru extended the preventive detention of former left-wing President Pedro Castillo from 18 to 36 months. Supreme Court Judge Juan Carlos Checkley ordered the three-year pre-trial detention for Castillo over alleged crimes of criminal organization, aggravated influence peddling and collusion in cases related to public works contracts in transportation and housing ministries and in the sale of fuel to the state-owned petroleum company Petroperú. The ruling has been widely criticized as being politically motivated and part of the attempt to completely exclude the ousted President from both political and civilian life.

In May 2022, the Prosecutor’s Office began investigating Castillo’s former transportation 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 was being investigated for money laundering at that time, had alleged that Silva accepted bribes in exchange for the public work with Castillo’s authorization. Castillo had denied the charges, adding that he and his administration were being politically persecuted by the Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary, whom he alleged were being controlled by the conservative oligarchy.

In August 2022, the public ministry opened a probe into the alleged irregularities in the tender for the acquisition of biodiesel barrels from the company Heaven Petroleum Operators by Petroperú. Later in 2022, the Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation against Castillo’s former housing minister Geiner Alvarado in the alleged acts of corruption in the execution of investment projects of the municipalities of Anguía, Chachapoyas and Chadín. It was alleged that Castillo was leading these corruption schemes and a criminal network while in office.

In a hearing held on March 7, Castillo reiterated his innocence, stating that he did not commit any of the crimes he is being accused of. “I reiterate my innocence regarding the false facts that I am accused of and once again denounce this unjust kidnapping for serving my country loyally as President of the Republic,” said Castillo.

Judge Checkley also ordered a 36-month pre-trial detention for Silva, and imposed the measure of appearance with restrictions to Alvarado with rules of conduct and payment of a security.

The judge explained that the detention was extended to prevent Castillo from fleeing the country or interfering in the investigation. Meanwhile, Castillo’s lawyer Eduardo Pachas said his client was being “politically persecuted,” adding that Castillo would appeal the ruling.

Castillo, who was ousted in a legislative coup and subsequently arrested on December 7, 2022, has been imprisoned in the Barbadillo prison in Lima for over three months, complying with the first measure of 18 months of preventive detention issued against him on December 15, 2022. The Prosecutor’s Office is investigating him for the crimes of rebellion and conspiracy, abuse of authority and public disturbance for attempting to dissolve the Congress and rule by decree.

Since his forcible removal from office and illegal arrest, hundreds of thousands of citizens, mainly from the long-neglected and marginalized countryside of Peru who identify themselves with Castillo, a former rural school teacher and a peasant leader, have been mobilizing in different parts of the country to demand radical political changes. Their demands include Castillo’s immediate release, his successor Dina Boluarte’s resignation, closure of the right-wing dominated Congress, advanced general elections by the end of the year, and a referendum on a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.

The brutal police and military repression unleashed by Boluarte against these mass nationwide protests has resulted in the deaths of at least 60 people and has left over 1,200 injured. Despite heavy repression and militarization of rural provinces, the demonstrators, relatives of victims and survivors of state violence have said that they will remain in the streets against the government until their demands are addressed and those responsible of the violence are brought to justice.

On March 8, on International Women’s Day, thousands of women mobilized in different parts of the country demanding an end to gender based violence in the country and to Dina Boluarte’s “murderous regime”.