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Peru has a new president after Pedro Castillo was removed for rebellion


Peru has a new president this morning. Authorities deposed and then detained the former president after he tried to dissolve the Congress there. Several things happened yesterday in the South American nation. President Pedro Castillo was facing impeachment. He suddenly went on television and said he was putting the Congress out of business. Lawmakers, security forces and the courts did not go along and removed him instead. Reporter Simeon Tegel has been covering Lima for years. He's there in the seaside capital where all this happened. Welcome to the program.

SIMEON TEGEL, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Wow. What was it like to be in Lima yesterday?

TEGEL: It was a bit of a whirlwind. We were due to have an impeachment debate and vote in the evening yesterday, and it appeared that would be when the action was. It seemed like there weren't quite the votes to oust Castillo, but it was very fluid, the situation. He's accused of multiple counts of corruption. But then Castillo jumped the gun in the morning and suddenly delivered this televised address to the nation, saying that he was dissolving Congress and the courts and was going to rule by decree and then launched a constituent assembly. He had no constitutional authority to do any of that. He also had no political support, and he didn't have the support, crucially, of the armed forces. It appears he was desperate, I think.

There's a consensus that once he was out of office, he would - and losing his presidential immunity, he would swiftly end up in jail. Congress responded by bringing forward the impeachment vote. And within literally a couple of hours of this TV address, he had been impeached and officially formally ousted from the presidency. And then a couple of hours after that, his car was caught up in Lima's traffic. Lima has appalling traffic. And he was arrested, and he spent his first night in a cell.

INSKEEP: Are you telling me that if he had done better at battling the traffic in Lima, he might have gotten away?

TEGEL: It is a possibility. He might also have gotten away - if he'd done better with his political calculations and actually waited for the original impeachment vote, he might actually just have got away with it.

INSKEEP: Can you explain to me how he got in such trouble? He was elected just recently. He was a leftist president, a very modest background. I'm sure some people had great hopes for him.

TEGEL: That's true. But to be fair, he was largely elected by default. He got something like 15% in the first round in a very splintered election with something like 15 different candidates. And then in the runoff, he was facing Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the former now-jailed dictator who most Peruvians find completely unpalatable. So he was kind of elected by default. And then he found himself in a situation where he was this leftist president from a party that describes itself as Marxist-Leninist, facing a Congress with a conservative majority. And they've just been at war ever since.

INSKEEP: So what happens to him now that he is in custody? Does he actually go to jail? Does he get out of the country? What happens?

TEGEL: He definitely doesn't get out of the country. He's got 10 days of preliminary detention on charges of sedition and rebellion. And he's probably looking at spending much of the rest of his life behind bars.

INSKEEP: And Dina Boluarte, the former vice president, is now the interim president. Reporter Simeon Tegel, thanks so much.

TEGEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Simeon Tegel