President López Obrador declared that diplomatic relations with Peru were “on hold,” and said Mexico still considers ousted president Pedro Castillo Terrones to be the country’s democratically elected leader.
Peruvian police arrested Castillo last week. Then on Wednesday, Peru declared a nationwide state of emergency following intensifying protests left seven people dead.
AMLO made the announcement at his morning press conference on Tuesday. The day before, he issued a joint statement with the leaders of Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia expressing “profound concern” at the treatment of Castillo, who was impeached by the Peruvian Congress last week and subsequently arrested.
“For the world it is not news that President Castillo Terrones, since the day of his election, was the victim of an antidemocratic harassment,” the joint statement read. “Our governments call on all the actors involved in the process to prioritize the will of the people expressed at the ballot box.”
“The President [Castillo] won,” AMLO insisted, when pressed by La Jornada newspaper on Tuesday. “What the agreement [the joint statement] proposes, is that the will of the people who elected him must be respected, to recognize that he won democratically and he cannot be removed.”
He stated that Mexico would continue to view Castillo as the president of Peru “until they resolve it there, in terms of legality.”
“Relations are on hold as we wait to see what happens,” he said. “Hopefully a democratic solution can be found.”
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard explained to the press on Tuesday that this does not mean a severing of relations, as Mexico will maintain its Peruvian embassy. Following the declaration of a state of emergency, Ebrard also announced coordinated efforts to “accelerate the return” of Mexican citizens currently in Peru.
Castillo was arrested for “rebellion” on Dec. 7, after he attempted to dissolve Congress and assume emergency powers ahead of a congressional vote on his impeachment for corruption. His former vice president, Dina Boluarte, has assumed Peru’s presidency.
On Tuesday, Boluarte defended Castillo’s ouster, echoing Peru’s constitutional court in denouncing his behavior as an attempted coup. Nonetheless, she moved to ease diplomatic tensions, telling reporters she would call AMLO and other signatories to the joint statement to discuss the situation.
“Diplomatic relations remain the same with these brother nations,” she insisted.
But the tensions have already disrupted regional cooperation. A meeting of the Pacific Alliance countries of Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia, scheduled for this week, is currently postponed.
AMLO’s outspoken support for Castillo contrasts with his usual position of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries. He has long been an admirer of the leftist leader, whom he views as an ideological ally.
Following Castillo’s arrest, AMLO confirmed that the ousted leader had attempted to seek asylum in the Mexican embassy in Lima. He has repeatedly called for Castillo’s human rights to be respected and criticized what he calls Castillo’s persecution by Peru’s economic elites.
“We very much regret what is happening, especially for the suffering of the brotherly people of Peru,” AMLO told La Jornada on Tuesday. “We have always maintained that the so-called political leadership and economic interests, the media, are the ones that cause all this instability that harms the people.”