Ex-Peruvian President Castillo sentenced to 18 months in prison as protesters declare ‘rebellion’


The ousted former president of Peru Pedro Castillo He will remain in pretrial detention for 18 months, the country’s supreme court ordered Thursday, as crowds of his supporters protested outside the courtroom and across the country.

Castillo, a former teacher and union leader from rural Peru, was removed from office last week after trying to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government — a tactic that lawmakers have criticized as an attempted coup.

He has since been accused of rebellion and conspiracy, which he denies.

The prolonged detention reflects the complexity of the case and potential escape risks, said Supreme Court Judge Juan Carlos Chicli, after prosecutors warned that the former president might seek asylum outside the country, and said 18 months would cover the duration of the investigation. Castillo’s lawyers say the former leader is not a flight risk.

Castillo himself did not speak in court. But at another hearing earlier this week, he defended his actions, saying “I have never committed the crime of conspiracy or insurrection,” adding that he still considers himself president.

He said at the time, “I will never resign and abandon this grassroots cause.”

In the days since he was removed from office, Castillo’s supporters have taken to the streets in cities across the Andean country, in what some protesters have called a “patriotic revolt”.

“Peru has declared ourselves in rebellion, a national rebellion, because we do not owe obedience to a usurping government,” said a protester in Lima on Thursday, referring to Castillo’s successor and former Vice President Dina Boulwart, who was quickly sworn in. Presidency by Congress hours after the impeachment of its former president.

Another protester described Peru’s judicial system as “corrupt” and Castillo’s arrest as a kidnapping.

“(Castillo) has been kidnapped and we are angry,” she told Reuters news agency. “It is the national rebellion in Peru.”

At least 11 people were killed amid the demonstrations. Four people were killed and at least 39 injured on Thursday, the local health department said, after protesters clashed with police near an airport in the southern Peruvian region of Ayacucho.

The current Peruvian government has responded to the protesters with carrots and sticks. President Boulwart has offered the possibility of early elections, while this week its Defense Minister, Luis Alberto Otarola, declared a state of emergency and deployed troops to the streets.

But efforts so far to quell the protests appear to have failed to address the central complaints of the demonstrators, who see the country’s political landscape as corrupt and disorganized, and accuse Peru’s elite of unfairly overthrowing their elected leader.

“If members of Congress consider themselves that democratic, respect the voice of the people and respect what we (Castillo) voted for,” protester Sonia Castaneda told Reuters.

The demonstrators also called for general elections, the dissolution of Congress, and the creation of a new Constituent Assembly.

Their anger has been amplified by some leftist leaders in the region. In a joint statement on Monday, the governments of Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia expressed concern about Castillo’s fate, claiming he has been the victim of “undemocratic harassment” since his election last year and urging Peru to respect the results of last year’s presidential election. vote.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Ana Cecilia Gervasi said on social media that Peru responded on Thursday by recalling ambassadors to confer on “interference” in Peru’s “internal affairs”.

Castillo—who had never previously held public office before assuming the presidency—campaigned on a promise to redistribute wealth and uplift the country’s poorest.

But his government was mired in chaos, with scores of ministers appointed, replaced, fired or resigned from office in just over a year. Castillo himself faced multiple corruption investigations and two failed impeachment attempts before he was ousted last week.

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