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Peru's president arrested after attempting to dissolve congress


Over the course of only a few hours today, Peru's president, Pedro Castillo, announced the installation of an emergency government and attempted to dissolve Congress and impose a curfew. This breathtaking pace of events happened just ahead of a third attempt by lawmakers to impeach him, a vote that went through rapidly this time, almost unanimously. Castillo has been in power for just over a year. But even in that short timeframe, the leftist president has proven to be deeply unpopular.

For more on this quickly evolving story, we're joined now by journalist Simeon Tegel, who is in Lima. Welcome.

SIMEON TEGEL: Hi. Thanks for having me on.

CHANG: Hi. OK. So let me make sure I understand everything that's happened within just the past several hours. Castillo has been arrested and replaced with a new president. Is that the latest at this point?

TEGEL: Yes, that's correct. He is now in custody, and his vice president, Dina Boluarte, been sworn in to take his place.

CHANG: OK. And tell us more about her. Like, do we expect her to last that long in this new position as president?

TEGEL: That's a really good question. And there's a good chance she doesn't last very long. There has been a ongoing political crisis in Peru, arguably for several years but certainly ever since Pedro Castillo was sworn in in July last year. His party, Free Peru, claims to be Marxist-Leninist. The Congress is overwhelmingly conservative, even ultraconservative. And there's just been this conflict between the two of them ever since. Dina Boluarte is on the same ticket. She was his running mate. So ideologically, at least, you would think that they would also be at loggerheads.

But I think also, most Peruvians want a break from this continual political conflict. And members of Congress, if they're smart - and there's a lot of people in Peru who would say they aren't, but if they are, they might at least give her a few months and hopefully a bit longer to establish herself.

One of the interesting things also about Peru's system - it's a parliamentary-presidential hybrid - is that she's a president, but then she names a prime minister who names a cabinet. So what she could possibly do is name a prime minister who's more centrist and appoints a more centrist cabinet with figures who are a bit more consensual than most of Pedro Castillo's very divisive and often extremist members - ministers. So she could do that and then kind of slip into the background a little bit and be more a kind of - as a president, take more a kind of protocolary role.

CHANG: A symbolic role. Well, can we just step back a moment? You've alluded to this, but tell us more about what led to this colossal downfall of President Castillo. I mean, what have been the substantial challenges during his tenure as president in just about the 50 seconds we have left?

TEGEL: So on the one hand, there was this ideological rift between the president and Congress, with many of them not recognizing his election victory as legitimate although it was. But on the other hand, he's been a completely incompetent president. He claimed to be the president of the poor. But the truth is he doesn't have a single achievement - or achievement he can point to. And during his presidency, we now have half of all Peruvians who are suffering food insecurity, and he's done absolutely nothing about it. So his very political identity is branding, which has been about defending the poor.


TEGEL: He's completely failed to live up to that.

CHANG: All right. That is Simeon Tegel joining us from Lima, Peru. Thank you so much.

TEGEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Simeon Tegel