© Reuters. Supporters of Peru’s former President Pedro Castillo gather outside the police prison where he is being held, in Lima, December 15, 2022. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda
By Marco Aquino
LIMA (Reuters) -Peruvian ex-President Pedro Castillo’s prison stay was extended by 18 months amid a deepening diplomatic spat with left-leaning countries in the region that oppose his removal as ongoing blockages threaten logistics at key mines.
A judicial panel within the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Castillo, initially jailed for seven days, will remain behind bars as prosecutors continue their investigation into criminal charges against the former leader.
The decision did not touch on the merits of the accusations faced by Castillo, who has been charged with rebellion and conspiracy, but a judge heading up the panel cited the risk of flight by the former president.
Castillo has denied all the charges and has claimed he remains the country’s lawful president.
The leftist Castillo, the son of peasant farmers and a former teacher who won a narrow victory at the polls last year running under the banner of the Marxist Free Peru party, was removed by an overwhelming vote of lawmakers who accused him of “permanent moral incapacity” just hours after Castillo ordered the Congress dissolved on Dec. 7.
The swift removal of Castillo, who led the South American country for just 17 months, has reverberated far beyond Peru’s borders, with several leftist allies of the deposed leader rallying to his support as angry and sometimes violent street protests extend into their second week, with a state of emergency declared.
Earlier this week, four nations led by leftist presidents – Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico – signed onto a joint statement declaring Castillo “a victim of undemocratic harassment.”
A bloc of left-wing countries meeting in Havana, including Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua, also forcefully backed the jailed Castillo, rejecting what they described as “the political framework created by right-wing forces.”
Foreign Minister Ana Cecilia Gervasi, new to the post after President Dina Boluarte took over from Castillo last week, responded on Thursday by summoning home Peru’s ambassadors in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico for consultation.
Gervasi wrote that the consultations “relate to interference in the internal affairs of Peru” in a post on Twitter.
She did not specify when the talks would take place, or what other actions Boluarte’s government might take.
Peru’s constitution allows a president to shut down Congress, but only if lawmakers approve motions of no confidence twice on the president’s Cabinet, which did not happen on the day of his ouster last Wednesday.
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