Peru’s former President Pedro Castillo has denied allegations of conspiracy and rebellion following his dramatic fall and arrest last week. His court appearance on Tuesday came amid ongoing protests by Castillo’s supporters that have left at least seven people dead.
Castillo was charged and arrested Dec. 7 after announcing plans to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government ahead of an upcoming impeachment vote by the Legislature.
Dina Boluarte, his former vice president, is now president. During a televised address on Monday, Boluarte proposed bringing the parliamentary elections forward by two years to April 2024.
During a virtual court hearing on Tuesday to appeal his seven-day detention order, Castillo told Judge Cesar San Martin, “I have never committed the crime of conspiracy or rebellion,” describing his detention as arbitrary and unjust.
Dressed in a blue jacket and seated next to his attorney Ronald Atencio, Castillo also said, “I will never step down and abandon this popular cause.”
“From here I would like to call on the armed forces and the national police to lay down their arms and stop killing these people who thirst for justice. Tomorrow at 1:42 p.m. I want my people to join me…” he also said before being interrupted by the judge.
Since last week, demonstrations in support of Castillo have erupted in cities across the country, sometimes marked by clashes with Peruvian security forces.
At least seven people died in the demonstrations, including two minors, the press office of the Peruvian ombudsman told CNNE on Tuesday. There were two deaths on Sunday and five on Monday.
According to radio and TV station Radio Programas del Perú, demonstrators have called for new elections, the dissolution of Congress and the formation of a new Constituent Assembly.
Boluarte on Tuesday called for calm to be restored in the country and said she had ordered police not to use deadly weapons against protesters.
“Everyone has the right to protest, but not to commit vandalism, attacking hospitals, ambulances, police stations, airports, (these) are not normal protests, we have reached the extreme,” Boluarte added.
Trains to and from Machu Picchu will be suspended from Tuesday due to Peru’s protests, rail operator PeruRail said in a statement.
“We regret the inconvenience these announcements are causing to our passengers; However, they are due to situations beyond our company’s control and seek to prioritize the safety of passengers and workers,” the statement said.
Flights have also been suspended due to protests, with LATAM Airlines Peru announcing the temporary suspension of services to and from airports in the cities of Arequipa and Cuzco.
Protesters tried to storm the terminal of Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cuzco on Monday, according to the Peruvian Airports and Commercial Aviation Corporation (CORPAC).
So far, according to CORPAC, there have been no reports of injuries, arrests or damage at the airport.
LATAM asked the Peruvian authorities to take “corrective measures to ensure safety” for the operation of its flights.
“We regret the inconvenience this situation beyond our control has caused our passengers,” she added.
The Peruvian National Police announced that there were blockades on national roads in at least eleven regions of the country on Monday evening.
In addition, the government has declared states of emergency in seven provinces in the Apurimac region of south-central Peru.
Political instability has plagued Peru in recent years, with many Peruvians calling for political change, according to a September poll by the Institute of Peruvian Studies, which found that 60% of respondents supported snap elections to hold both the presidency and Congress to renew.
It is unclear whether Boluarte’s rise to the presidency can garner broad political support.
Boluarte “has no recognized political career,” said Fernando Tuesta Soldevilla, a professor of political science at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. “And without partisan support, political party or social organization to back it up, it’s weak from the start.”
“Everyone knows when Dina Boluarte’s government began, but no one can be sure how long it will last,” he told CNN.