Ex-president Pedro Castillo from prison: ‘I was wrongfully kidnapped’

Arrested for staging a self-coup, Peru’s former leader says he is the victim of a plot

Pedro Castillo prison
A screenshot of former president Pedro Castillo during his virtual court hearing on March 7, 2023.Justicia TV

A clean-shaven and hatless Pedro Castillo made a public appearance on March 7, three months to the day since he attempted to stage a self-coup and dissolve Peru’s Congress. Accompanied by his lawyer, the labor leader turned politician participated in a virtual court hearing to consider the public prosecutor’s request for a second preventive detention order to keep Castillo in prison for another 36 months. The judge will announce his decision on March 9.

Castillo struck a belligerent tone and again denied committing the crimes leading to his arrest. He also floated a conspiracy theory that witnesses were paid off to keep him behind bars. “The only crime I have committed is to serve my country as President of the Republic. A tower of crimes has been fabricated using bribed collaborators. I will soon complete 100 days of being wrongfully kidnapped,” said Castillo, who is being held in the Barbadillo prison where Alberto Fujimori, another ex-president, is serving his sentence.

After 17 months in office, Castillo faces charges of leading a criminal organization, collusion and influence peddling. Two former ministers also stand accused: Juan Silva (Minister of Transportation and Communications), whose whereabouts are unknown, and Geiner Alvarado (Minister of Housing, Construction and Sanitation). Castillo has already been sentenced to 18 months of preventive detention for the crime of insurrection after his failed attempt at installing a provisional government in December 2022.

During the virtual hearing, Castillo railed against the Congress that removed him for being morally unfit to hold the office of president. “This Congress does not serve the country – it [squanders money] on more than 6,500 flights a year and when the President of the Republic and his cabinet present the national budget for approval, it first demands a payoff of 500 million soles [$132 million],” said Castillo.

Almost simultaneously with Castillo’s virtual court hearing, his wife, Lilia Paredes, claimed that Castillo was a political prisoner. Paredes said from Mexico, “I want to tell you what he said the last time we spoke. He said, ‘They will slander and defame me, but I will never betray my people.’ I asked, ‘What can we do?’ He answered tearfully, ‘Stay here in the Mexican embassy – I’m going back to fight with the Peruvian people.’”

In a related case, Jorge Ernesto Hernández Fernández was detained on March 7 in Lima on charges of coordinating an alleged criminal network to “intimidate and threaten the physical safety” of public officials, journalists and collaborators who provided information on suspected acts of corruption in the Castillo government.

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