At the beginning of August, with 67 votes, the Plenary of the Peruvian Congress voted against the presence of President Pedro Castillo at the inauguration of Gustavo Petro in Colombia. By October, when Castillo requested permission to visit Pope Francis in the Vatican, there was greater consensus, but his request was also denied (55 votes against, 54 in favor, and six abstentions). The third time was not the charm: last week, the president was not authorized, again by the Chamber, to travel to Mexico and receive the presidency of the Pacific Alliance summit this Friday.
Congress, however, did approve that Castillo participate in the IV Binational Cabinet between Peru and Chile, in Santiago, early next week, where he will meet with his counterpart Gabriel Boric. How is it explained that one request is accepted and the other is not, when both events are very close, in addition? Why is Castillo prevented from developing a foreign policy, key for any government? Is it about obstructionism, the term that has most accompanied the Peruvian Congress in recent times?
Various representatives of the opposition argue that the first requests denied were for fear that the president would flee the country due to investigations against him for alleged corruption, which involve those closest to him. The last refusal, however, would be in retaliation for the use of the question of confidence —a constitutional mechanism of the Executive Power to repeal the law that limits the reform of the Constitution through a referendum— by the president of the Council of Ministers, Aníbal Towers. Without that law, promoted by Fueza Popular, the main opposition bloc, it would be enough for citizens to collect 2.5 million signatures to hold a referendum on the Magna Carta and establish a Constituent Assembly, one of Castillo’s main campaign promises. The yes in favor of his trip to Chile, on the contrary, would be a message to the OAS, which has been in Peru since this Sunday, that they are not a Congress that trips the Government.
For the political analyst Antenor Escudero, the actions of Congress have managed to define it more as “anti-Executive” than, properly speaking, as the Legislative Branch. “They dedicate more time to the Executive than to their parliamentary work. That is why they have a low legal production. Under the excuse that they exercise political control, they try to justify that this power only presents itself as an opposition to the Government rather than a power with its own tasks, ”he explains.
The tensions between Congress and the Executive do not date from this Government. It is a stone in the shoe that has been increasing in recent decades. Escudero adds: “I would say that has been the situation for the last 20 years. [Alejandro] Toledo was threatened with a vacancy and always negotiated with the opposition. [Alan] García had the great advantage of a large bench that allowed him, together with the right, to try to balance the weight that the opposition had. [Ollanta] Humala not only lost allies, but also tried to reach agreements with an intransigent Congress. What we have seen is a progressive intensification of the Congress as anti-Executive, much more diffuse with Toledo, but taking a clearer form with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. [forzado a renunciar] and thereafter”.
Although it is a long-standing problem against governance, there are not a few scholars of the national reality who agree that everything worsened as of July 28, 2016, when Keiko Fujimori, leader of Fuerza Popular, did not recognize the victory of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski at the polls. A very close victory, by a margin of 0.23%, one of the closest in Peruvian politics. In this regard, the political scientist Valerie Tarazona Kong says: “‘History without end’ has been repeating itself since 2016: the main opposition force to the last two democratically elected governments has not shown any interest in acknowledging its electoral defeat, so he deploys his opposition role from a bully attitude. There was a kind of truce due to the pandemic and the leadership of Francisco Sagasti. But the script would seem to repeat itself every time Keiko Fujimori faces a new issue critical of her multiple legal proceedings, ”she maintains.
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The High Level Commission of the Organization of American States (OAS) held various meetings throughout this Monday. In the morning they held a private session with President Pedro Castillo. After the meeting, the president spoke rudely through his social networks, saying that he received them “so that they know how some sectors intend to endanger democracy and the stability of the country with lies.”
Afterwards, the delegation, made up of six foreign ministers who are members of the OAS Permanent Commission (Argentina, Ecuador, Costa Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize and Paraguay), a vice foreign minister (Colombia) and a former foreign minister (Paraguay), spoke with the president of the Congress, José Williams, and the other members of its Board of Directors. In the afternoon, finally, they met with the National Prosecutor, Patricia Benavides, who filed a constitutional complaint against Castillo, precisely, for the alleged crimes of criminal organization, influence peddling and collusion. “We are here to listen to all voices,” the OAS wrote on its social networks. Tomorrow they will continue with their agenda, including a meeting with the Peruvian Episcopal Conference.
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