Peruvian President Pedro Castillo wearing an indigenous hat and a Wipala flag draped over his shoulders. Photo: Carlos Mamani/AFP/FIle photo.
On Tuesday, February 7, El Salto published an exclusive interview with Peruvian President Pedro Castillo. Castillo has been detained for two months since being ousted by congress, which immediately placed Dina Boluarte in power. In the interview, Castillo stressed that he did not want to obey “social and economic power groups… putting the people above all else.”
From the moment of his irregular arrest, protests began in Peru. More than 60 deaths have occurred due to the repression ordered by Boluarte, plunging the country into a deep and violent political and institutional crisis. The discontent manifested in various areas of Peru and has moved to the capital, Lima. Protesters are demanding Boluarte’s resignation, early elections and the constituent assembly that Castillo had promised.
On December 7, 2022, the political crisis that kept Castillo’s government stagnant worsened with the forced change of dozens of ministers and legislative and judicial persecution against Castillo, a rural school teacher who became president through democratic elections and was the first president outside the elites in almost 200 years.
The El Salto team interviewed Castillo exclusively in Barbadillo, the maximum security prison where former dictator Alberto Fujimori is also being held, convicted for crimes against humanity by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
During the interview, conducted through questions were delivered to Castillo via lawyers, including the Argentinians Eugenio Zaffaroni, judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and Guido Croxatto, director of the School of the State Lawyers Corps in Argentina. Castillo is in jail due to a controversial preventive measure and is accused of sedition. He noted that he still considers himself president of Peru.
Lawyers Zaffaroni and Croxatto were accompanied by the president’s legal team, namely, the lawyers Indira Rodríguez Paredes and Wilfredo Robles. The entry of the Argentinian lawyers was, according to El Salto, hindered by the National Penitentiary Institute of Peru, attempting to create obstacles and inconveniences so that the meeting would not take place.
“The meeting was finally able to take place: the notes that constitute this interview resulted from this meeting, conducted orally and handwritten between the last days of January and the first week of February,” wrote the news outlet. “All recording devices, including mobile phones, were expressly prohibited.”
Castillo fears for his life in the face of hatred and racism
When asked about his safety, Castillo stated that he has feared for his life since he made it to the second round of the elections that would designate him as president on July 28, 2021. He said that the incitement of hatred and racism from the far right constitutes a risk for him, his family, and all the leftist militants in the country.
“Yes, I fear for my life right now. In Peru, there is no type of legal, political or civil security. I must say that I do not fear for my life as of right now. I fear for my life since the second round of the campaign to be president,” he reported.
“There has been political persecution since I was campaigning. The right wing was merciless with my family and me, especially with my minor children and my wife. They slandered us. They falsely accused us of terrorism. They did not let us develop personally or in my government. The harassment was constant, daily and disturbing. These actions incited hatred and racism.”
Castillo also noted that he had “received death threats from unknown phone numbers.”
“My children and wife too. That is why I sought, at all times, security for my children since they are the most precious thing I have,” he stated. “Security for my little daughter, my young son, my older daughter and my wife.”
The president stressed that he suffered mistreatment from the right wing, where they accused him of being a “terrorist.” “They have wanted to hurt me. I would say that they even wanted to assassinate me. For example, in Tacna, I suffered a situation in which several people from the extreme right beat me with bolts and iron sticks, I was injured, but I did not file a complaint. That is one of my most vivid memories of the runoff campaign.”
“I have also received public threats, for example, from Rafael López Aliaga [extreme right-wing businessman and mayor of Lima], who openly asked that they kill me. He said at his rally: ‘Death to Castillo,’” Castillo said.
He also pointed out that he has not been able to communicate with his family and that he fears for their safety. Castillo explained that the attacks against him and his family went to the extreme of preventing his son from studying at a school when they discovered his relationship. He highlighted the harassment his young daughter suffered after images of a birthday party they organized for her were leaked. And even surrounded by security, she was insulted in the streets. “They yelled at her: ‘You are the daughter of the donkey,’ and she cried and felt bad. They attacked my minor children to attack me,” Castillo added.
President Castillo repudiated how “the historical racism that Peru has experienced and continues to experience, as well as classism and social and economic inequality, is why there is currently a massacre and multiple human rights violations in Peru.” He then added that these crimes against the Peruvian people “will firmly and courageously be taken to international institutions by the lawyers.”
Boluarte and Fujimorism
When asked about Boluarte’s relationship with Fujimorismo and the Peruvian oligarchy, Castillo replied that she “works with Fujimorismo. They all organized the plot.”
“Everything was prepared with the police and the armed forces. Her [Boluarte], the Prosecutor’s Office, the Peruvian right, especially Fujimorismo,” he stated.
Castillo explained in the interview that he now knows that Boluarte “had a rapprochement with the Peruvian right since before December 7, 2022. She was and is friendly with the far right. They have allied and talked. And that was from before, as far as I know now.”
“She hired people from Fujimorism in the ministry. She never gave the opportunity to ordinary Peruvians and those from the regions. And now she has been exposed. She has called the entire right wing that violates human rights the most to the cabinet. The list is known. She only pretended to be a democrat, but now her true personality is evident,” Castillo added, calling her a dictator.
It’s time for the constituent assembly
Pedro Castillo also pointed out in the interview that “it is the constituent moment. We are not going to look for it. History is looking for us. Changing the constitution is the desire of the people, to escape the Fujimori legacy. I reaffirm that we need a popular constituent assembly.
Regarding the Parliament’s refusal to move elections forward, he stressed that “congress is delegitimized,” its actions are alien to the popular will because it is not “in sync with the peoples” and that “the majority (in the Peruvian Parliament) continues to follow local media scripts.
“For example, why don’t they hold a plenary session in a region?” he said. “Let’s see, let them go to Ayacucho, Puno, Apurímac, Ica, Cusco, regions with murders at the hands of the police and the armed forces. The people would tell them what they think. Let them get out of the congressional bubble and go find out what the people really think.”
The US and the EU work to oppress the peoples
When asked about the international community’s reaction, especially that of the United States and the European Union, to his case and their participation in the systematic violation of human rights in Peru, Castillo pointed out that “the United States is working with the European Union to oppress our countries, peoples and communities.”
“That is why they want me imprisoned, and that is why the power embedded in those spaces is silent in the face of the systematic violation of human rights in Peru: murders, arrests, injuries and political persecution of leaders, as in my case and of many others,” he said.
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.