Peru’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Rodriguez resigned on Friday, becoming the fourth diplomatic chief to step down under President Pedro Castillo whose government has been wracked by political instability.
Castillo, who has survived two impeachment attempts since taking over in July 2021 and is facing six criminal investigations into alleged corruption, has seen a wave of key appointments step down this year.
Last month, former prime minister Anibal Torres became the fourth incumbent to resign from Castillo’s government, which has also seen seven interior ministers leave office.
Rodriguez announced his “irrevocable resignation from the post” in a letter shared on the foreign ministry’s Twitter account.
Local media recently reported disagreements between Rodriguez and Castillo, including over several high-profile environmental issues.
Castillo’s first foreign minister was former guerrilla fighter Héctor Béjar, who lasted just 19 days in the post.
The leftist president, who has been under nonstop fire from his right-wing rivals, appeared before prosecutors on Monday to respond to accusations that he ran a graft network from his office, dismissing the claims as a political ploy to unseat him.
He is serving a five-year term that ends in 2026 and cannot be tried while in office.
Peru is no stranger to instability: it had three different presidents in five days in 2020, and five presidents and three legislatures since 2016.
Castillo said at a public event in Lima on Wednesday that “they have just entered my home.”
The prosecutor’s office would not confirm a raid had taken place.
Castillo, a 52-year-old rural school teacher and trade unionist, unexpectedly took power from Peru’s traditional political elite in elections last year.
He has come under non-stop fire from his right-wing political rivals and is also in the cross-hairs of the attorney general’s office investigating claims including public tender corruption and that Castillo plagiarized his university thesis.
Opinion polls show that three-quarters of Peruvians disapprove of his management of the country, which has seen three prime ministers and seven interior ministers come and go in just over a year.
Paredes, 26, lives with Castillo and his wife who she reportedly views as “parents”.
She is the fourth person in the presidential entourage to be investigated for alleged corruption and also faces money laundering charges.
The others include a nephew who served as an adviser, a former transport minister — both fugitives from justice — and Castillo’s former presidential secretary.
The Court of Justice said in a statement that Tuesday’s raid on the presidential palace was to execute a judicial search warrant for Paredes.
Other raids took place simultaneously elsewhere in the capital, with Jose Nenil Medina — a mayor from Castillo’s native Chota province — and businessmen brothers Hugo and Angie Espino arrested for alleged involvement in the same corruption ring.
In a message broadcast on television late Tuesday, Castillo called the operation “an illegal raid” that was part of a conspiracy to remove him from office.
Also on Tuesday, a parliamentary committee report recommended disqualifying and prosecuting Castillo over his reported consideration of a proposal to allow landlocked neighbor Bolivia access to the sea.
Covid-19 killed at least one parent or primary caregiver for nearly 100,000 children in Peru, the country with the world’s highest coronavirus death rate, its government reported Thursday.
“Unfortunately our country has almost 98,000 children who lost their father, mother, or guardian during the pandemic,” said Peru’s Minister of Women Anahi Durand, citing figures published in the medical journal The Lancet.
Peru leads the world in overall Covid deaths per capita, with more than 6,000 Peruvians per million having died from the disease, according to an AFP analysis of official figures.
The government currently provides a pension of 200 soles ($50) every two months to more than 18,000 families.
Durand hopes to expand the benefit to cover psychological and educational support and to reach more than 83,000 children and adolescents.
A key issue under the current system is that many families lack the necessary documentation to receive the benefit, Durand said.
“Many families come to us and want to access the pension, but they do not have a death certificate for Covid-19 — in the first and second wave people died at home, they did not have conditions to get that certificate,” she explained.
The country of 33 million is undergoing its third Covid wave and has recorded more than two million cases.
More than 202,900 people in Peru have died since the beginning of the global pandemic in early 2020.
A 7.5-magnitude earthquake in northern Peru injured 12 people and destroyed 117 homes, leaving more than 2,400 people without a roof over their heads, authorities said Monday.
The quake, which struck in the early hours of Sunday and sent shock waves across the region, also leveled five churches and damaged a clinic and some 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) of roads.
The tremor was felt in nearly half of the country, including coastal and Andean regions and the capital Lima. It also caused damage in neighboring Ecuador.
The epicenter was 98 kilometers east of the small Peruvian town of Santa Maria de Nieva in the Peruvian Amazon — a sparsely populated area inhabited by indigenous people, many of whom live in wood and mud houses, which collapsed.
The 14-meter (45-foot) tower of a colonial-era church collapsed in the La Jalca district, also in the Amazon.
Widespread power outages were reported, and roads were cut off by rocks unearthed by the tremor.
“We have all taken to the streets, we are very scared,” a listener called Lucia told RPP radio from the northern town of Chota.
‘You are not alone’
“All my solidarity with the people of Amazonas in the face of the strong earthquake,” Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, who was at the scene of the tremor Monday, said on Twitter.
“You are not alone, brothers.”
The president said there were “people waiting to be rescued” in remote jungle villages, and promised the government would provide food and tents.
Castillo said he had ordered all relevant ministries “to take immediate actions.”
The president indicated that in jungle villages there are still “people who are waiting to be rescued.”
In Lima, more than 1,000 kilometers south of the epicenter, the quake was felt with less intensity, but it lasted long enough to prompt some people to seek refuge on the street outside.
The Peruvian capital, with a population of 10 million, had been shaken hours before by a 5.2-magnitude earthquake.
No tsunami warning was issued by US monitors.
Peru experiences at least 400 perceptible earthquakes every year.
It is located in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire — an area of ample seismic activity that extends along the west coast of the American continent.
A powerful 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck Peru’s central coast on August 15, 2007, causing more than 500 deaths.
Twenty-nine passengers died, including a child, and more than 20 were injured when a bus plummeted from a cliff in Peru early Tuesday, officials said, in the country’s third multiple-victim transport accident in four days.
The accident happened on a narrow stretch of the Carretera Central road some 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of the capital Lima.
Police commander Cesar Cervantes told TV Peru there was a child among the dead and two among the injured. There had been 63 passengers on the bus, and local official Freddy Laorte said 29 of them had perished.
A search and rescue effort was underway for possible survivors and to recover bodies, the police department added on Twitter.
Pedro Castillo was sworn in as Peru’s fifth president in three years Wednesday on the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence, promising an end to corruption and a new constitution.
The 51-year-old rural schoolteacher, who has vowed to upend a quarter century of neo-liberal government, enters the job with a lengthy to-do list: tame the coronavirus epidemic, reactivate a flagging economy and end years of political turmoil.
“I swear by the people of Peru for a country without corruption and for a new constitution,” he declared before Congress, coming back to a campaign promise to change Peru’s free-market friendly founding law.
The existing charter is a relic of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, serving jail time for corruption and crimes against humanity, and father of Castillo’s main presidential rival, the right-wing populist Keiko Fujimori.
Insisting Peru could not “remain a prisoner” of the 1993 constitution, Castillo said he would send a bill to parliament with a view to organizing a referendum on replacing it.
Castillo’s Free Peru party does not enjoy a majority in a fragmented congress, holding 37 of the 130 seats. Fujimori’s Popular Force party has 24.
Castillo was declared the victor on July 19 for a five-year term — more than six weeks after a runoff race against Fujimori, whose allegations of voter fraud then had to be reviewed by an electoral jury.
Wednesday’s swearing-in was attended by Spanish King Felipe VI, five Latin American leaders, former Bolivian president Evo Morales and the United States education secretary, among other guests.
Some 10,000 police officers were deployed in the capital Lima, and hundreds of Castillo voters came out waving banners in a show of support.
– ‘New deal’ with investors – “This is the first time this country will be governed by a peasant,” Castillo told guests at his inauguration, sporting his trademark, traditional white sombrero and a typical black Andean suit.
He also sought to calm fears among investors, the business community and backers of Fujimori, who had sought to portray him as a communist.
“During the election campaign it was said that we are going to expropriate (assets). It is totally false. We want the economy to have order,” the new president said, adding, however, that he would be looking for a “new deal with private investors.”
Castillo is Peru’s first president in decades with no ties to the country’s political or economic elite.
He has promised reform to ensure there are “no more poor people in a rich country,” but has softened his initial campaign talk of nationalization.
He is a devout Catholic opposed to gay marriage and abortion.
Peru has been hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic. With nearly 200,000 deaths among its 32 million population, it has the world’s highest reported mortality rate.
An extended pandemic lockdown in 2020 is blamed for the loss of millions of jobs and dumping the country into recession. GDP dropped more than 11 percent.
As his chief economic adviser, Castillo has appointed World Bank economist Pedro Francke, seen as a moderating influence on his boss.
Francke vowed, in a recent interview with AFP, that “we will not expropriate, we will not nationalize, we will not impose generalized price controls, we will not make any exchange control that prevents you from buying and selling dollars or taking dollars out of the country.”
– President of all Peruvians – It is widely hoped Castillo will bring an end to years of political upheaval in Peru.
A series of corruption scandals culminated in three different presidents in office in a single week last November.
Seven of the country’s last 10 leaders have either been convicted or are under investigation for graft, and now that she has lost, Fujimori faces an imminent corruption trial for allegedly taking illicit campaign funding for two previous presidential bids.
The election campaign has also been deeply polarizing, with often vehement public support on both sides of the political spectrum for the final two contenders.
“Castillo must rapidly position himself as a president of all Peruvians and not as a president of half of Peruvians,” political analyst Jessica Smith told AFP.
On Monday, Castillo received congratulations in a call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who “reinforced our shared commitment to promoting inclusive economic prosperity.”
Castillo, who has vowed to renounce his presidential salary, said Wednesday he would also not govern from the official presidential residence, Pizarro Palace, which he suggested should be turned into a museum.
“I believe we have to break with the colonial symbols,” he said, adding he would return to his schoolteacher’s job at the end of his term.
Three days of ceremonies will culminate in a military parade in Lima on Friday to mark the swearing in.
Rural school teacher Pedro Castillo on Monday was declared Peru’s president-elect, making him the country’s first leader with no ties to the elites that have governed the Andean country for decades.
The 51-year-old far-left trade unionist was largely unknown until he led a national strike four years ago that forced the then-government to agree to pay rise demands.
He was born to peasants in the tiny village of Puna in the historic Cajamarca region where he has worked as a teacher for 24 years.
He grew up helping his parents with farm work, and as a child, he walked several kilometers to school.
Today, he is rarely without the trademark white, wide-brimmed hat of his beloved Cajamarca, where the last Inca emperor Atahualpa was assassinated on the main square in 1533 by Spanish conquistadores.
Castillo likes to don a poncho and shoes made of recycled tires, and traveled on horseback for much of his presidential campaign as he vocalized the frustration of struggling Peruvians and cast himself as a man of the people.
“No more poor people in a rich country,” he said as he campaigned for the Peru Libre (Free Peru) party.
He has said he would renounce his presidential salary and continue living on his teacher earnings, and described himself as “a man of work, a man of faith, a man of hope.”
Castillo, said analyst Hugo Otero, is “the first poor president of Peru.”
– Surprise victory – In April, Castillo surprised many by taking the lead in the race to become Peru’s fifth president in three years, edging out 17 other candidates.
He then faced off against rightwing candidate Keiko Fujimori in the runoff, promising radical change to improve the lot of Peruvians contending with a recession worsened by the pandemic, rising unemployment and poverty.
One thing unlikely to change under a Castillo presidency is the Peruvian state’s socially conservative character: he is Catholic and vehemently opposed to gay marriage, elective abortion and euthanasia.
He frequently quotes from the Bible to drive home his points, and at his two-story brick home in the hamlet of Chugur in Cajamarca hangs a picture of Jesus surrounded by sheep and a caption, in English, “Jehovah is my shepherd.”
– Respect for private property – Castillo has targeted creating a million jobs in a year, and said Peru’s mining and hydrocarbon riches “must be nationalized.”
Peru is a large producer of copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc, and mining brings in 10 percent of national GDP and a fifth of company taxes.
He has promised public investment to reactivate the economy through infrastructure projects, public procurement from small businesses, and to “curb imports that affect the national industry and peasantry.”
But he has also sought to dispel fears that “we are going to take your wine farm, that we are going to take your house, your property.”
Among his more controversial campaign promises, Castillo has vowed to expel illegal foreigners who commit crimes in Peru, giving them “72 hours… to leave the country.”
The comment was perceived as a warning to undocumented Venezuelan migrants who have arrived in their hundreds of thousands since 2017.
Free Peru is one of few left-wing Peruvian parties to defend the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose 2018 re-election is not recognized by dozens of countries.
To combat crime, Castillo has proposed withdrawing Peru from the American Convention on Human Rights, or San Jose pact, to allow it to reintroduce the death penalty.
He has also mooted replacing Peru’s free-market-friendly constitution — a relic of his rival’s father, ex-president Alberto Fujimori, serving jail time for corruption and crimes against humanity.
– A ‘humble man’ – Castillo burst onto the national scene four years ago when he led thousands of teachers on a near 80-day strike to demand a pay rise.
It left 3.5 million public school pupils without classes to attend, and compelled then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who initially refused to negotiate, to relent.
In a bid to delegitimize the protest, then-interior minister Carlos Basombrio claimed its leaders were linked to Movadef, the political wing of the defeated Shining Path Maoist guerrilla group dubbed a “terrorist” organization by Lima.
Castillo, who had participated in armed “peasant patrols” or ronderos that resisted Shining Path incursions at the height of Peru’s internal conflict from 1980 to 2000, vehemently rejected these allegations.
Today, his home is guarded by ronderos brandishing canes and leather whips.
Next to his house, Castillo has a one-hectare farm where he grows corn and sweet potatoes and raises chickens and cows.
“We are proud that my brother has made it this far, being a humble man,” his younger sister, Amelia, told AFP.
Luis Diaz scored a sensational winner with virtually the last kick of the match as Colombia beat Peru 3-2 in Brasilia on Friday to finish third in the Copa America.
The goal was the 24-year-old Porto forward’s second of the match and came just 10 minutes after Gianluca Lapadula looked to have sent the game into a penalty shoot-out.
It was a thrilling encounter that ebbed and flowed, with Yoshimar Yotun giving Peru a first half lead before Colombia captain Juan Cuadrado equalized early in the second period.
“We’re happy, it was important to finish by winning,” said Cuadrado, whose side lost their semi-final on penalties to Lionel Messi’s Argentina, who play Neymar’s Brazil in Saturday’s final.
“I’m happy with how we reacted (to going behind) and how we went after the result.”
Colombia had the better start and piled on early pressure but Peru held firm despite the ball often pinging around in their box.
And Peru even had the first clear chance on 28 minutes when Christian Cueva’s clever pass found Lapadula, but under pressure from a defender he fired narrowly wide from just inside the box.
Diaz had a chance for Colombia but fired straight at goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
On 40 minutes Sergio Pena left Colombia’s centre back Oscar Murillo on the floor with a clever turn, rounded goalkeeper Camilo Vargas but blazed well over the bar from a tight angle.
Peru got the lead they deserved just before the break as Cueva’s precise pass and Lapadula’s clever run took out four defenders to set up Yotun for an emphatic finish.
Colombia were back level just four minutes after the break as Cuadrado fired a free-kick through a disintegrating wall and past Gallese at his near post.
Alexander Callens had given away the free-kick on the edge of the box with a clumsy challenge and compounded his error by jumping away from his fellow members of the wall to create the gap that Cuadrado exploited.
Colombia’s tails were up and Cuadrado’s cross picked out man-of-the-match Diaz whose acrobatic overhead kick was parried over by Gallese.
The game opened up and the dangerous Lapadula cut inside a defender on the right before firing in a left-foot shot that clipped the bar as it went over.
It was end-to-end stuff with the goalkeepers playing a role in launching long-range attacks.
Gallese picked out Cueva to run at goal only for a Wilmar Barrios bodycheck to stop him in his tracks.
But then Vargas launched a long ball up field for Diaz to scamper away and beat Gallese with a rasping finish on 66 minutes.
Lapadula looked to have sent the match to penalties eight minutes from time when he rose almost unopposed to head home a Raziel Garcia corner from six yards out.
But Diaz had the last word with a stunning strike from 25 yards that Gallese could only get his fingertips to as it rifled into the top corner.