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Mexico Backs an Attempted Coup in Peru – Mary Anastasia O’Grady / WSJ

President López Obrador claims the elected executive had absolute power.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador speaks in Mexico City, Dec. 16.

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador may be revealing more about his political ambitions than he intends with his demand that deposed Peruvian President Pedro Castillo be restored to office.

While still president on Dec. 7, Mr. Castillo tried to seize one-man rule. Peru’s democratic institutions stopped him. By any measure of a free society, it was a positive outcome to a constitutional crisis.

Reaction around the region has been somewhat predictable. Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, all one-party police states, and Colombia, which has been lost to the underworld of drugs and thugs, are calling for Mr. Castillo to be reinstated.

But among surviving democracies, Mr. López Obrador’s support for Mr. Castillo stands out. Even Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández and Chile’s President Gabriel Boric recognized the presidency of Dina Boluarte, the former vice president who was sworn in to succeed Mr. Castillo. President Boluarte has received 14 European ambassadors at the presidential palace and met with the U.S. ambassador to Peru. But on Tuesday Mexico suspended diplomatic relations with Lima.

The facts speak for themselves: Peru’s congress had received from the attorney general significant evidence of the Castillo administration’s corruption. At least five credible witnesses had come forward, claiming to have firsthand knowledge of bribes paid to the government. A vote to impeach was imminent.

It wasn’t clear that the opposition would prevail. But Mr. Castillo wasn’t taking any chances. Before the legislature convened that Wednesday, he announced he was closing it down, along with the judiciary, the attorney general’s office and the constitutional court. He declared a national emergency so he could rule by decree. Had Peru’s military and national police backed him up, the country would have become an instant dictatorship.

Instead, his attempted coup triggered a series of cabinet resignations, including that of his defense minister. When Mr. Castillo tried to flee, he was arrested by national police. Congress impeached him and he is now in prison.

Mr. Castillo was a teachers union activist before he became a presidential candidate under the tutelage of Vladimir Cerrón, a Marxist-Leninist with a medical degree from Cuba. When Mr. Castillo won the 2021 runoff presidential election with 50.1% of the vote, he had no experience governing or in the politics of elected office. He wasn’t good at either. Radicals were delighted by his extreme rhetoric. But they’re a minority whose primary objective is securing a new constitution à la Venezuela.

Ms. Boluarte, rumored to be as much of an ideologue as her predecessor, will have to be more politically astute than he was to survive. Her mandate finishes in 2026.

But militant factions have unleashed a wave of violence aimed at forcing her to resign. They’ve burned down an industrial plant, occupied airports, and trashed cities and towns. Some leaders of the rampage are former Castillo officials. So far Lima is mostly calm. But the Andean city of Cusco has been hard hit by vandals and looting. The military had to take over the airport in the southern city of Arequipa, but on Sunday it was still closed due to damage.

Castillo backers are trying to provoke a civil war pitting Andean Peru against the coast. But the strategy of using intimidation and violence to create the impression of support is antagonizing a population they claim to champion. Ms. Boluarte has declared a 30-day state of emergency to allow the armed forces to engage with the police. Most Peruvians want her to make alliances with moderates and restore peace. Her new cabinet is centrist. Nevertheless, her promise to move the 2026 elections up to 2024 suggests that the terrorism is paying dividends.

Meantime AMLO insists that because Mr. Castillo was elected, his removal is automatically antidemocratic. That’s hooey. All modern liberal democracies limit executive power.

The decisions by Peru’s military and national police to uphold their oaths to the constitution have been crucial. One theory about why they did so is that they resented Mr. Castillo’s alleged links to the left-wing narco-terrorists they have been assigned to fight in coca-growing regions of the country. The armed forces still carry the institutional memory of the high costs they paid in the confrontation with the Shining Path in the 1980s. Bolivia’s support for Castillo extremism, led by former Bolivian President Evo Morales, was also a strike against the Peruvian.

It’s no coincidence that Mr. López Obrador, who has repeatedly abused his power through executive decree, is working to secure his military’s loyalty by giving it a greater role in the Mexican economy. His support for Mr. Castillo is consistent with his regional politics. In 2019 he gave Mr. Morales, who is the leader of the Bolivian coca-growers union, asylum in Mexico.

Any one of these facts about Mexico’s head of state on its own may be no big deal. Cumulatively they spell trouble.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.


Mary Anastasia O’Grady is an Opinion Columnist, writes “The Americas,” a weekly column on politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada that appears every Monday in the Journal. Ms. O’Grady joined the paper in August 1995 and became a senior editorial page writer in December 1999. She was appointed an editorial board member in November 2005. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Indianapolis­-based Liberty Fund. Energiesnet.com does not necessarily share these views.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), on December 18, 2022. All comments posted and published on Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of Petroleumworld.

Original article

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