Peruvians rarely have an opportunity for the kind of catharsis presented by Pedro Castillo’s swift journey this week from the presidential palace in downtown Lima to the inside of a nearby police station, where he remains under arrest. The Andean nation has suffered the world’s worst coronavirus mortality rate – losing 0.65 per cent of its population to the pandemic – and is now experiencing a hunger crisis that has been intensified by the war in Ukraine. The glum national mood was exacerbated over the past 17 months as the country’s novice far-left president, Castillo, staggered from one gaffe and corruption scandal to another, all the while seeming to ignore the poor whom he continually claimed to represent. He was clearly out of his depth from day one.
Yet his attempt to unconstitutionally shutter Congress in order to avert his impeachment on graft charges was extraordinarily inept. A wannabe dictator might at least have confirmed that the army was on board with such an authoritarian power grab. But not Castillo, whose hands were shaking as he announced his shock move on TV, precipitating his own ouster just two hours later. Meanwhile, members of the conservative-dominated Congress celebrated. Polls show that ordinary Peruvians intensely dislike both Castillo and the lawmakers. His sudden replacement by vice-president Dina Boluarte (pictured), who has managed to steer clear of his corruption scandals, promises a new dawn. But it remains far from clear whether she will be able to end the political warring that for years has undermined Peru’s governability and economy.
Simeon Tegel is a Lima-based journalist and analyst who reports across Latin America.