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LATIN AMERICA | 20-10-2022 17:58

OAS sends mission to Peru, supports government in face of political crisis

Organisation of American States expresses its support for Peruvian government and decides to send a mission to the country after President Pedro Castillo, under investigation for corruption, asked for help to overcome the political crisis.

The Organisation of American States said Thursday it will send a "high-level group" to Peru after President Pedro Castillo asked for the body's help in tackling the country's political crisis.

The decision came during a special OAS Permanent Council session in Washington following embattled Castillo's announcement late Wednesday he had sought the body's help to foster a national dialogue.

In the extraordinary session, the organisation's executive body adopted a resolution offering "solidarity and support" for the "preservation of the democratic political institutional process" in Peru, calling on "all actors" to work within the "rule of law." 

The OAS appointed "a high-level group made up of representatives of member states, in accordance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to carry out a visit to Peru in order to analyse the situation" and then report on it to the council.

Addressing the nation live on TV Wednesday, Castillo said he had last week asked the 35-member OAS to invoke its "democratic charter," which sets out the body's mission "to promote and consolidate representative democracy." The leftist leader called for Articles 17 and 18 to be activated. 

 

Article 17 contemplates that a country can "request assistance for the strengthening and preservation of its democratic institutions" if it considers this to be "at risk" and article 18 allows for mission teams to visit and analyse the situation, provided that the invoker authorises it.

Castillo asked the OAS "to start a consultation process with all the political forces, the powers of the State and the social forces" in search of "a path that prevents a serious alteration of the democratic order in Peru."

On Thursday, the OAS declared it was available to "provide support and cooperation" in "promoting dialogue and strengthening its democratic system of government."

Castillo, a former rural school teacher, has been under non-stop fire since unexpectedly taking power from Peru's traditional political elite in elections last year. He has survived two impeachment attempts since taking office in July 2021 and is the target of six criminal investigations for alleged graft and plagiarising his university thesis.

In addition to these, Peru's attorney general last week filed a constitutional complaint accusing Castillo of heading a criminal organisation involving his family and allies. The complaint – the first of its kind against a sitting president – must be examined by Congress, and unlike a criminal case, can lead to Castillo's suspension. Fewer votes are required than for impeachment. 

 

'I am not corrupt'

Castillo, serving a five-year term that ends in 2026, cannot be criminally tried while in office.

In recent months, police have raided the presidential palace in Lima, where Castillo resides, as well as his private home in rural Peru in search of evidence to back the corruption claims.

On Wednesday, Castillo accused "the money sectors, the traditional politicians who have always thrived on corruption" of being behind the "coup" attempt against him. "I am not corrupt," he insisted on Twitter.

Peruvian Foreign Minister César Landa said Thursday before the OAS that "there is a situation that, if not corrected in time, could cause the democratic order, the rule of law, to be questioned."

The Peruvian government considers that the sending of the mission team "is essential to carry out a neutral and independent view" of the situation.

Peru appeals to its right to invoke the various multilateral mechanisms "for its preservation and defence," he insisted.

In its resolution, the OAS expresses "its solidarity and support for the government, as well as the "preservation of democratic institutions."

The organisation recalls that all state institutions are constitutionally subordinate to civil authority and declares itself ready to "provide support and cooperation" through efforts "to promote dialogue and the strengthening of its democratic system of government."

 

'High risk'

During the Permanent Council session, Commissioner Edgar Stuardo Ralón Orellana, rapporteur for Peru of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said that the crises experienced in the South American nation in recent years are due to several factors, including "the repeated use of three constitutional figures."

The IACHR, which carried out a visit to Peru between October 10 and 13, considers that "the constitutional accusation, the presidential vacancy due to permanent moral incapacity and the dissolution of Congress due to the denial of confidence in two councils of ministers" are three figures that can carry a risk.

"They have the potential to weaken the separation and balance of State powers, to paralyse the governance of the country due to their lack of objective definition" and to generate "a high risk for democratic institutions," he said.

Peru is no stranger to instability: It had three different presidents in five days in 2020, and five presidents and three legislatures since 2016. But six open investigations into a sitting president is unprecedented. 

Also on Thursday, Fitch Ratings downgraded its assessment of Peru's long-term debt outlook to "negative" from "stable" in response to the "weakening of Peru's political governance institutions."

"A deterioration in political stability and government effectiveness has increased downside risks to Peru's ratings," it said.

 

-- TIMES/AFP

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