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Peru: President Dina Boluarte rules out elections, as predecessor Castillo remains detained

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CNN
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Peru’s new President Dina Boluarte ruled out early elections on Thursday, her first day in office following the dramatic ousting and arrest of her predecessor Pedro Castillo.

Boluarte became Peru’s first female President on Wednesday after lawmakers defied Castillo, who in a fight for his political survival had attempted to dissolve Congress earlier that day and call for early elections ahead of a third impeachment vote against him.

Peruvian lawmakers described the move as a coup, and a majority of the 130-person Congress voted to impeach Castillo on Wednesday. The former president was later arrested for the alleged crime of rebellion, according to the country’s Attorney General.

CNN has reached out to Castillo’s defense team for comment regarding the allegations.

During a virtual hearing Thursday, where Peru’s Supreme Court reviewed the prosecutor’s arrest request, Castillo’s defense denied allegations of rebellion and conspiracy against the president.

Prosecutor Marco Huamán also said that the Public Ministry considered Castillo a flight risk, alleging that the former president was traveling with his family to the Mexican Embassy at the time of his arrest on Wednesday.

Castillo’s defense rejected the accusations, and dismissed the suggestion that Castillo sought to flee the country.

The court has ordered a seven-day preliminary detention of Castillo, who, according to the Attorney General’s office, is being held by the police.

Calls for early elections have been mounting among political parties and analysts since Wednesday’s tumultuous series of events, as a way to fix Peru’s political dysfunction, which has now seen six presidents in under five years.

But Boluarte said Thursday that she needed some time.

“I know that there are some voices that indicate early elections and that is democratically respectable. I believe that the assumption of the Presidency on this occasion is a bit of a reorientation of what must be done with the country,” Boluarte told journalists on Thursday, adding that she will later look “at alternatives to better reorient the destinations of the country.”

Her ascendency may not necessarily ease Peru’s toxic and embittered political landscape as Boluarte needs to gain cross party support to be able to govern.

Many Peruvians have been calling for a change in the political guard, according to September poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP), which found 60% of those surveyed supported early elections to refresh both the presidency and Congress.

On Wednesday, in her first speech as President, Boluarte called for a “political truce to install a government of national unity” and said that she would fight corruption with the support of the country’s Attorney General’s Office and Comptroller’s Office.

“My first task is to fight corruption, in all forms,” Boluarte said. “I have seen with revulsion how the press and judicial bodies have reported shameful acts of robbery against the money of all Peruvians, this cancer must be rooted out.”

Her predecessor, Castillo, had been mired in multiple investigations on whether he used his position to benefit himself, his family and closest allies by peddling influence to gain favor or preferential treatment, among other claims.

Castillo has repeatedly denied all allegations and reiterated his willingness to cooperate with any investigation. He argues the allegations are a result of a witch-hunt against him and his family from groups that failed to accept his election victory.

His arrest marks a humiliating downturn in Castillo’s short political career. The former schoolteacher and union leader rose from obscurity to be elected in July 2021 by a narrow margin in a runoff. and was seen as part of a “pink tide” of new left-wing leaders in Latin America.

He ran on a platform promising to rewrite the constitution and increase wealth redistribution by granting states greater control over markets and natural resources, pledges that he has struggled to deliver amid rising inflation in Peru, his lack of political experience and strong conservative opposition in Congress.

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