(Cnn in Spanish) — A new chapter in a political crisis that seems to never end hangs over the president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, who this Tuesday was constitutionally sued by the Prosecutor’s Office for allegedly being part of a criminal organization. And while Castillo, who claims to be innocent, assures that this event is configured as an attempted “coup d’état”, the country could be writing a new page in a years-long crisis that it has not been able to avert.
Castillo, who is already facing several scandals and investigations and has survived two impeachment attempts, spoke to journalists on Tuesday night to refer to the scandal, rejecting the accusations against him and assuring that the prosecution is being used politically by his opponents. .
“The execution of a new type of coup d’état has begun in Peru,” the president said on Tuesday night. “A coup d’état with created scripts, using the public ministry politically and making the country believe that my person leads a criminal network which I flatly reject.”
The Congress of Peru, in whose hands continues the investigation and future of Castillo, said in a statement on Tuesday which referred the investigation to the Subcommittee of constitutional accusations for its qualification.
What is Pedro Castillo accused of?
This Tuesday, the Attorney General of Peru, Patricia Benavides, presented a constitutional accusation against the President of the Republic, Pedro Castillo, before the Congress of Peru. The prosecutor accuses Castillo of crimes of criminal organization, influence peddling and collusion. Castillo already faces six investigations by the Prosecutor’s Office.
“We have found very serious and revealing indications of the existence of an alleged criminal organization entrenched in the government with the purpose of taking over, controlling and directing the hiring processes in the different levels of the State to obtain illicit profits,” said the attorney general of Peru, adding that this “organization” would presumably be led by President Castillo, and made up of other former government officials and the former manager of Petro Peru, Hugo Chavez.
Benavides, who appeared in front of the cameras surrounded by her officials when communicating the charges, said that her investigations, those of the Prosecutor’s Office, are “always objective in accordance with the law and respecting all the guarantees of due process.”
And, as if anticipating an accusation of acting with political intentions, Benavides said that the prosecutors “are not political actors, but justice operators”; He added that the investigations of the Prosecutor’s Office are based on facts and not trying to persecute people in particular.
“Corruption undermines the democratic order and violates human rights, therefore, the fight against corruption in all spheres of the State must be unanimous because only then will immunity not be impunity,” the prosecutor said on Tuesday.
A new political attempt to remove Castillo from power?
With little more than a year in power, Castillo currently faces six other investigations, including for the alleged crimes of influence peddling, obstruction of justice, for allegedly directing a criminal organization and even plagiarism of his master’s thesis as a professor. . In addition, after an interview with CNN in which he spoke of the possibility of giving Bolivia an outlet to the sea, a constitutional complaint was filed against Castillo for alleged violations of the Constitution and the crime of treason against the country, to the detriment of the State. .
The complaints against the president include the president’s wife, Lilia Paredes, and his sister-in-law, Yenifer Paredes. The latter is currently serving preventive detention for 30 months for the alleged crimes of criminal organization and money laundering, in the largest escalation in tax investigations. The first lady’s younger sister denied the allegations against her when she appeared before Congress, where she was subpoenaed.
After knowing the accusation of the Prosecutor’s Office, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, Felix Chero said that there is a “systematic plan to remove President Pedro Castillo from office.”
Chero assures that the Prosecutor’s Office is being instrumentalized to carry out this plan, and invoked article 117 of the Constitution saying that these investigations are not grounds for accusing the president.
The constitutional article cited by Chero establishes that the president of Peru can only be accused during his term for four reasons:
– Treason against the country.
– Prevent elections of any kind.
– Dissolve the congress except in the cases provided for in article 134.
– For impeding the meeting or operation of the Congress or the National Elections Jury and other bodies of the electoral system.
That article does not include a criminal investigation to remove the president from office, which is currently happening, according to allies of the president. Since other forms established by the constitution have not advanced.
Criminal lawyer Carlos Caro previously told CNN that the Constitution does not prevent investigating the president, since article 117 prohibits “accusing” the president, something that would take place at a much more advanced stage: “the preliminary, initial stage is a investigation and that investigation is what the Prosecutor’s Office has ordered,” Caro told CNN.
But, according to the Constitution of Peru, there are several ways that are contemplated to eventually be able to remove a president from office.
The first is a presidential vacancy, which has been tried twice against Pedro Castillo, but the necessary votes have not been achieved.
The other modality that is contemplated is the constitutional accusation, which is the mechanism used by the Prosecutor’s Office in this case, and which puts the decision on the future of the president in the court of Congress. Then there in Congress it was decided whether Castillo goes to impeachment for a Constitutional infraction or goes to trial for committing a crime.
With the decision of the Prosecutor’s Office, it will be the Congress that must decide which of these two procedures against the president will be carried out there and it will be the Legislature that decides whether to suspend Castillo from office, if he is dismissed or if he is dismissed and disqualified even for 10 years.
According to Caro, the investigation against the president “implies that President Castillo, for the first time in his mandate and for the first time in the country’s history, is going to be investigated while he is in office.”
In January, the former National Prosecutor, Zoraida Ávalos, opened two preliminary investigations against the president, one of them related to the Puente Tarata case, but decided to suspend them until the president completed his term. Then, various constitutional lawyers questioned such a decision by arguing that, although the Constitution states that the president can only be accused in the exercise of his functions for treason against the fatherland and three other crimes, the Magna Carta does not indicate that he cannot be investigated.
Although some legislators have said that they want to launch a third impeachment attempt, they have recognized that they do not have the necessary votes, which for now keeps Castillo somewhat firmly in power.
Castillo denies any wrongdoing and on Tuesday night he stated that he will fulfill his term, which ends in 2026.
— With information from Jimena de la Quintana, Fernando del Rincón of CNN and Reuters.