Peru’s Congress on Tuesday voted to move up general elections from 2026 to April 2024 in a bid to ease tensions and head off deadly protests sparked by the ouster and arrest of president Pedro Castillo.
The political maelstrom has also touched off a diplomatic row with Mexico, which has voiced its support for Castillo, a leftist onetime schoolteacher.Lawmakers voted 93-30 with one abstention to approve the change in the electoral calendar.
The measure also stipulated that current President Dina Boluarte hand power to the winner of those elections in July 2024.
The leader of the legislature, Jose Williams, said for the measure to take effect, it would need to be ratified in another vote in the coming months.
Castillo was removed from office and detained earlier this month after seeking to dissolve Congress to rule by decree. His ousting was criticized by his leftist Latin American allies including Mexico, and which brought thousands of his supporters into the streets.
A subsequent security clampdown, including the deployment of armed soldiers during a state of emergency declared under Boluarte, followed. Officials say at least 21 people have died in the unrest. More than 650 others have been injured.
Demonstrations rattled the country, with roadblocks and airport disruptions, and thousands of tourists were left stranded, including at the famed Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
Polls show that 83 percent of citizens are in favor of bringing elections forward to resolve the crisis roiling the South American nation.
On Tuesday, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arrived in Lima to meet with authorities as part of a fact-finding mission.- Instability -Castillo, a 53-year-old former union leader, unexpectedly took power from Peru’s traditional political elite in elections last year.
He immediately came under fire, surviving two early impeachment bids, and soon also found himself in the cross-hairs of prosecutors looking into numerous graft claims.
He is the subject of six separate criminal investigations.
Castillo’s brief term in power was plagued by instability, with three prime ministers and seven interior ministers coming and going in just over a year.
He has been ordered held in pre-trial detention for 18 months.
Castillo was arrested as he made his way to the Mexican embassy in Lima to request asylum — sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries.
The government in Lima, which felt slighted by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s support of Castillo, on Tuesday declared the Mexican ambassador persona non grata and gave him 72 hours to leave the country.
Mexico City later said it was recalling the ambassador, Pablo Monroy Conesa, “in order to ensure his safety” while adding that its mission would continue to operate normally.
Lima however granted safe passage for his wife and two children to leave the country, in accordance with international diplomatic conventions, and they were at Mexico’s embassy in Lima, having been granted asylum.
Castillo’s wife Lilia Paredes is also under investigation for alleged involvement in a criminal organization.