Peru’s Congress to consider moving elections forward again

Holding early elections is a major demand of protesters who have taken to the streets since the removal of President Castillo.

Peru’s Congress will reconsider a proposal to move elections forward, one of the key demands of protesters who have taken to the streets for nearly two weeks since lawmakers voted to remove former President Pedro Castillo.

The legislature, which has an overwhelming disapproval rating in the Andean nation, will take up the proposal on Tuesday to push forward the vote for president and Congress to next year, though elections were originally planned for 2026.

The country’s embattled new president, Dina Boluarte, has urged lawmakers to authorise her plan to hold the elections in December 2023.

“Don’t be blind,” Boluarte said in a national address on Saturday. Peru’s Congress had previously taken up the issue on December 16, but it failed to gather enough votes in favour of rescheduling the elections.

In her address, Boluarte asked legislators to reconsider their position, citing opinion polls that showed more than 80 percent of Peruvians want general elections to stabilise the country.

“Look at the people and take action in line with what they are asking. I demand that the vote to bring elections up be reconsidered,” said the 60-year-old former vice president, who assumed the presidency on December 7 after Congress voted to impeach Castillo.

The legislature removed Castillo from office after the left-wing, former teacher and union leader announced plans to dissolve Congress and rule by decree.

His removal – and subsequent arrest and detention on allegations of “conspiracy” and “rebellion” – have sparked widespread protests and spurred Boluarte’s administration to declare a nationwide state of emergency for 30 days.

Despite the measure, along with a nighttime curfew imposed in certain provinces, protesters have continued to take to the streets, particularly in rural parts of the country that make up Castillo’s stronghold.

While many of the protesters are angry over Castillo’s removal and arrest and have demanded his release, others are calling for Boluarte to step down and for Congress to be dissolved, in addition to early elections.

At least 20 people have died in the unrest, while hundreds have been injured.

Operations at the airport of Arequipa, Peru’s second busiest, resumed on Monday after a week of closure due to protesters obstructing the runway with stones, sticks and burning tyres.

That same day, security forces fired tear gas to disperse thousands of informal miners who cut off the Pan-American Highway at two vital points for more than a week.

Meanwhile, international observers have urged a return to calm, with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging “Peru’s institutions and civil authorities to redouble their efforts to make needed reforms and safeguard democratic stability” in a call with Boluarte last week.

The European Union on Monday also called for a “spirit of dialogue and cooperation to stop the violence” and condemned “any use of violence and any excessive use of force” amid reports of civilian deaths.

Ronald Atencio, a lawyer for Castillo, recently told Al Jazeera that the former president “knows there’s a serious crisis” in the country and wants the violence to end. “He’s worried,” Atencio said in an interview.

Castillo has also argued that he is being “unjustly and arbitrarily detained”. He is being held for 18 months in pretrial detention at a police facility near the capital, Lima, as authorities prepare the case against him.

On Tuesday, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico – which has come out in support of Castillo – had granted asylum to the Peruvian leader’s family and was currently negotiating their safe passage.

“They’ve been granted asylum because they’re in Mexican territory. They’re in our embassy,” said Ebrard, who did not specify how many or which of Castillo’s family members were at the embassy.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said earlier this month that Castillo had called his office to request asylum in the Mexican embassy in Lima, which he planned to grant, but Castillo was arrested before arriving.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies