Peru arrests three police generals amid Castillo corruption probe

Authorities say generals took part in pay-for-promotion scheme with alleged approval of ex-President Pedro Castillo.

Supporters of Castillo wave a Peruvian flag during a protest. There are armed police in the foreground.
Protests have broken out across Peru this month after former President Pedro Castillo was arrested on charges of 'rebellion' and 'conspiracy' after he tried to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote [File: Hugo Curotto/AP Photo]

Peru has detained six people, including three police generals, as part of an ongoing probe into accusations of corruption against former President Pedro Castillo, who was impeached and removed from office earlier this month.

An anticorruption task force in the attorney general’s office said on Monday that it carried out a “mega-operation” as part of its investigation into allegations that Castillo’s government authorised “irregular promotions” for police and military officers.

Three of the six people arrested are active police generals accused of having approved promotions, with Castillo’s alleged blessing, in exchange for money.

The interior ministry also said it had seized “documents and devices” in more than two dozen searches across the country, including at two homes linked to Castillo’s former defence minister, Walter Ayala.

“Through these interventions, six of those investigated were arrested,” the attorney general’s office said on Twitter.

Castillo, who was arrested after legislators voted him out of office on December 7 for attempting to dissolve Congress and rule by decree, is being investigated for influence peddling.

The former teacher and union leader from rural Peru — whose short presidency was marked by several political crises — faces six separate charges of corruption, all of which he has denied.

The country has faced weeks of unrest following Castillo’s removal from office, with demonstrators urging his release from prison, where he is serving 18 months of pretrial detention on charges of “rebellion” and “conspiracy”.

Many protesters also have demanded early elections, the dissolution of the Peruvian legislature, which has a nearly 90 percent disapproval rating, and the resignation of Castillo’s successor, former Vice President Dina Boluarte.

Boluarte, who condemned Castillo’s effort to dissolve Congress and was sworn in shortly after his impeachment, has called on legislators to authorise new elections for December 2023.

“Don’t be blind,” she said in an address earlier this month after her administration declared a nationwide state of emergency due to the protests. “Look at the people and take action in line with what they are asking.”

While Castillo’s plan to dissolve Congress was widely condemned as an attempted coup, his supporters have denounced his arrest as an effort by Peru’s ruling elite to silence the ex-president — exacerbating deep political divisions in the Andean nation.

At least 21 people have been killed so far in the demonstrations, drawing concern from human rights groups.

The crisis also has fuelled tensions with other countries in Latin America, most notably Mexico, where the government has come out in support of Castillo and offered members of his family asylum.

Monday’s arrests came after a former commander of the army, General Jose Vizcarra, and of the air force, Jorge Chaparro, alleged in November that Castillo’s government had put pressure on them to promote officers who did not qualify.

The attorney general’s office said on Twitter that the detained generals were being investigated for “allegedly having paid to rise in rank in 2021 with the authorization of former President Pedro Castillo”.

Both Castillo and Ayala, the former defence minister, have denied the allegations.

On Monday, Ayala criticised the searches and the arrests. “This has been unnecessary, because they haven’t found anything,” he told reporters.

“This investigation is over a year old … this is a show.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies