Peru’s new president hints at elections as former leader faces charges

Dina Boluarte takes over as head of state after Pedro Castillo arrested over alleged coup attempt

Peru’s new president says she will study “alternatives to better reorient the destiny of the country” after her predecessor was fired and arrested on Wednesday after allegedly attempting a coup.

Dina Boluarte was sworn in on Wednesday as the country’s seventh president in six years after her predecessor Pedro Castillo dissolved congress and declared a state of emergency in an attempt to stave off an impeachment vote against him over corruption charges.

But, without the support of the armed forces and national police, his power grab fizzled out after three hours. Congress instead voted to remove him from office and Mr Castillo was detained while trying to flee to Mexico’s embassy in the capital Lima to request political asylum. Now being held in the same police jail that houses former dictator Alberto Fujimori, he faces possible charges as a result of his attempted coup.

Peru’s first woman president, Ms Boluarte quickly moved to form a Government of national unity for a country whose politics in recent years has become increasingly unstable. Ms Boluarte inherits Mr Castillo’s term which runs until 2026, but she hinted that she could agree to calls for early elections which she acknowledged were “democratically respectable”. A member of Mr Castillo’s small Free Peru party, she lacks a proper support base in a congress increasingly accustomed to dictating political terms to the executive.


Mr Castillo won a shock victory in last year’s presidential election when he rode a tide of public anger at the country’s corrupt political system to power. As a provincial schoolteacher with no previous political experience, his victory was the response of voters fed up with a traditional political class mired in a series of scandals.

As well as Mr Fujimori, who has been jailed for human rights abuses, two other former presidents have served time for corruption, while a third is facing extradition from the US on corruption charges and a fourth committed suicide when police came to his house to arrest him on corruption charges.

As the surprise winner in the presidential contest while representing a minuscule Marxist party with almost no base in congress, Mr Castillo lacked the political conditions and personal capabilities to successfully conduct the country’s volatile political system. His administration was racked by instability from the start, going through multiple ministerial reorganisations as it was constantly buffeted by events that quickly escalated into the first of three impeachment attempts.

His attempted self-coup was a desperate attempt to see off the last of these. But with even less support than when he assumed the presidency 16 months ago, his reckless gamble only hastened his final removal.

Even among other left-wing leaders in the region there was little sympathy for Mr Castillo. Brazil’s president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said his removal was “constitutional”. Colombia’s president Gustavo Petro said his inability to mobilise his voters behind his presidency “allowed him to be led to political and democratic suicide”. But Mr Castillo did receive the backing of former Bolivian president Evo Morales who said his removal was the result of “the hybrid war of the international right” and signalled a “new onslaught of imperialism”.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America