Peru’s President Pedro Castillo will be summoned this Friday to answer a prosecutor’s questioning and investigate him as the alleged leader of a group that commissioned public works in exchange for bribes. Despite the fact that the President has announced that he will cooperate with the judiciary and appear at his appointment before the prosecutor’s office at 10 a.m. this Friday, his lawyer is trying to annul the investigation.
“In 11 months they couldn’t find any evidence that we tried to steal,” Castillo said Thursday as he denied irregularities in his management, which turns a year old next month. However, his lawyer has filed two appeals in recent weeks to have the investigation annulled: one before the prosecutor’s office and the other before a constitutional judge. Finally, a judge will decide whether the public prosecutor’s office can continue the investigation or has to wait for the end of the mandate.
The Attorney General has found evidence that the head of state ran a criminal organization that benefited from bribes from businessmen who irregularly won a tender worth more than $62 million to build a bridge last year: Three other investigations belong to the Castillo’s entourage Refugees. Former Minister of Transport Juan Silva; former Secretary General of the Presidency, Bruno Pacheco; and a nephew of the president, Fray Vásquez Castillo, fled justice, while the Lima press exposed the versions of the businessmen involved in the conspiracy, who are now trying to cooperate with the justice system to get a lighter sentence.
A prosecutor’s office for corruption of officials and another for money laundering began investigations last year as a result of visits by Karelim López — an interests manager with ties to Fujimorism — to the house where Castillo was deployed in the first few weeks of his inauguration as president. The businesswoman also appears in the records of visits to the Government Palace and the Ministry of Transport and Communications in the days before the Tarata III Bridge Consortium (formed by HB, Tapusa and Termirex companies) won the tender to build the Millionaires’ Bridge in the Amazon San Martin.
According to the statement of another stakeholder involved in the irregular public works award, Zamir Villaverde, he presented then-minister Silva with a briefcase containing money as a thank you from one of the companies selected in the tender. In his words, it was “a hundred grand,” though it’s not clear if he’s referring to $100,000 or soles. The day after the press published Villaverde’s version, the former officer sent a WhatsApp message to his escort, urging them not to accompany him until further notice. In Peru, after leaving office, former ministers have a car and police protection for a few months.
Despite the fact that prosecutors had already asked the police to put Silva under surveillance, the former principal and Castillo’s friend escaped. The Interior Department has set a $13,400 reward for the capture of the former traffic chief and smaller amounts for former Secretary Pacheco and the head of state’s nephew.
Subscribe to EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
Under the Constitution, an incumbent president can only be charged during his tenure with treason against the fatherland, obstructing elections, or obstructing the work of Congress and the electoral bodies. For this reason, previous Attorneys General opened investigations into other crimes against then-President Martín Vizcarra and against Castillo himself and let the continuation pending until the end of the mandate. However, Attorney General Pablo Sánchez, who has been in office since March 30, has included President Castillo in the Tarata Bridge tax investigation “due to the seriousness and seriousness of the allegations,” according to a state ministry statement in late May.
At a court hearing this Wednesday, Benji Espinoza, the head of state’s attorney, asked Supreme Court Justice Juan Carlos Checkley to annul the president’s tax investigation; His argument is that the prosecution begins with the attribution of a crime. On the other hand, Deputy Attorney General Samuel Rojas, who is deputizing for the attorney general, argued that the judge should allow the investigation to proceed because never before had there been “sufficient evidence that an incumbent president would use his high position to… leading a suspected criminal organization anchored in the state apparatus (Ministry of Transport and Communications) to make illegal profits.”
Rojas called the Attorney General’s decision to investigate the head of state a turning point in the State Department as it seeks to reconcile Article 117 of the Constitution with protecting the democratic system and the rule of law. Judge Rojas added that the immediacy of the investigation was due to the need to gather elements to determine whether the charges against Castillo are well founded and to avoid destroying evidence. Although Judge Checkley has not announced the exact date when he will make his decision, Castillo will be subpoenaed to respond to a new prosecutor’s questioning in the case this Friday. The President has also opened another investigation into former Attorney General Zoraida Ávalos for alleged interference and collusion in the promotion process of military chiefs. Castillo took over the presidency in late July last year and has faced three attempts by the parliamentary opposition to remove him from office through the constitutional count of the vacancy for moral incompetence, which requires 87 votes. Opponents want to modify the norm to require fewer votes to fill the vacancy or increase the number of crimes for which an incumbent president can be impeached.
Aside from obstructing Congress, the president has performed poorly due to the high turnover of ministers – most of whom are incompetent for the position, as in the case of Silva in transportation. Castillo has attempted to block votes against him in Parliament by handing over ministries to various factions.
Public managers’ lack of continuity has compromised their connection with their constituents, mostly rural and middle-class or poor. According to the latest poll by Ipsos Peru, 70% disapprove of his management. On the other hand, the main agricultural organizations have called for a strike at the end of the month “as a wake-up call for the government” given the lack of fertilizers, the food crisis and farmers’ debts. César Guarniz explained to Radio Nacional Director General of the Board of Users of the Hydraulic Irrigation Sector of Peru. “There are some mistakes and things should go as they should,” he said.
Subscribe to the EL PAÍS América newsletter here and receive all the important information about current events in the region.