OAS holds meeting after Peru’s embattled president alleges ‘coup’

Organization of American States adopts resolution urging all political actors in Peru to show ‘respect for rule of law’.

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo delivers a message to the nation after requesting an OAS meeting to prevent 'a serious alteration of the democratic order in Peru' [Luis Iparraguirre/AFP]

The Organization of American States (OAS) has adopted a resolution to send a mission to Peru to “analyze the situation” in the country, a week after President Pedro Castillo accused officials investigating him of a “coup d’etat”.

Castillo announced late on Wednesday that he had sought the regional body’s help to foster a national dialogue in a bid to prevent “a serious alteration of the democratic order in Peru”.

In a resolution passed after a meeting in Washington, DC, on Thursday afternoon, the OAS permanent council expressed “solidarity and support” for Peru’s government, “as well as for [the] preservation of the democratic political institutional process”.

The council also called on all political actors in Peru to show “respect for the rule of law” and said it would appoint a group OAS member state representatives to travel to Peru to assess the situation.

It was not immediately clear when the team would visit the South American nation.

In a live television address to the nation on Wednesday, Castillo said he had asked the 35-member OAS to invoke its “democratic charter”, which sets out the body’s mission “to promote and consolidate representative democracy”.

The OAS said in an earlier statement that it would convene a “special meeting” in the US capital that would include a presentation by Peruvian Foreign Minister Cesar Landa, the fifth to hold the post since Castillo took over in July of last year.

Landa said during the meeting that Peru was facing a “crisis against democracy”.

Castillo’s request relied specifically on Article 17 of the regional organisation’s charter, which allows a member state to request assistance “for the strengthening and preservation of its democratic system” if it fears it to be at risk.

The Peruvian government told the OAS in a letter last week that it wanted to “preserve democratic institutionality and the legitimate exercise of power”.

Castillo’s appeal followed a decision by Peru’s attorney general to file a constitutional complaint against him.

The left-wing president, who won a hard-fought 2021 election, faces an unprecedented six investigations by the prosecutor’s office, including for influence peddling, obstruction of justice, and directing a criminal organisation.

The attorney general has said that investigators had found “very serious indications of a criminal organisation that has taken root in the government”.

Castillo has denied any wrongdoing, instead telling reporters last week that the effort was an attempted “coup d’etat” orchestrated by both the attorney general and opposition-controlled Congress.

The attorney general’s action, the first against a sitting president, must be examined by parliament and could lead to Castillo’s suspension from office. Fewer votes are required for a suspension than for an impeachment.

Political instability is not uncommon in Peru, which had three different presidents in five days in 2020, and five presidents and three legislatures since 2016.

Castillo, a former rural teacher whose victory took power away from Peru’s traditional political elite, has already survived two impeachment attempts since he took office last year.

In recent months, police have raided the presidential palace in the capital, Lima, where Castillo resides, as well as his private home in rural Peru in search of evidence to back up the corruption claims.

On Wednesday, Castillo accused “the money sectors, the traditional politicians who have always thrived on corruption” of being behind the “coup” attempt against him.

“I am not corrupt,” he wrote on Twitter.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies