Peru's President Francisco Sagasti has ordered the Minister of Defense to investigate the sending of a letter by retired military officers which may imply a breach “to the constitutional order.”
As electoral officials continue not to declare a winner from the June 6 presidential runoff between leftist Pedro Castillo and Conservative Keiko Fujimori, a letter has been reportedly sent to the current leadership of the Armed Forces to denounce an electoral fraud in favour of the rural teacher who is roughly 44,000 votes ahead pending appeals, and disregard Sagasti's authority.
“It is unacceptable for a group of retired members of the Armed Forces to try to incite the high command of the Army to break the rule of law,” Sagasti said.
In a democracy, the Armed Forces are not deliberative, but absolutely neutral and scrupulously respectful of the Constitution, he added, as he found the letter contrary to the values and democratic institutions, and thence the request to Defense Minister Nuria Esparch to investigate possible crimes.
“As Supreme Chief of the Armed Forces and the Presidency, I guarantee neutrality ... I urge the public to remain calm and serene in the difficult times that we are living a few days after commemorating the bicentennial of our independence,” Sagasti stressed.
The National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) completed counting votes on Tuesday, once all observations or challenges were resolved, and Castillo won by 44,240 votes out of more than 17.6 million valid votes (50.125% to 49.875%).
However, the official proclamation of the winner must be made by the National Elections Jury (JNE) after resolving all the appeals submitted by both candidates. Without a clear date for that, political tension mounts in Peru, where a coalition of civil organizations, students and unions called for a demonstration Saturday.
The alleged letter heated the political climate. The Defense Ministry has not had contact with the document, although fragments thereof have been published by Lima media with details of the signatories.
Ministry sources told the newspaper El Comercio that the text refers to false facts, incorrect information and records unverified data, and stressed that at least four of the alleged signatories are deceased. Among those who allegedly signed the letter are many Army generals and a group of Navy vice admirals, all of them already retired, as well as General Benigno Cabrera Pino, current congressman for the Union for Peru (UPP), and former Army chiefs under President Ollanta Humala Generals Víctor Ripalda Ganoza and Ricardo Moncada Novoa.
Meanwhile, Castillo supporters speak of a manoeuvre to annul the elections and claim the fraud allegations may be motivated by Fujimori's need to seek political asylum abroad since she is under investigation for corruption.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Javier Villa has filed for the annulment of the elections and the holding of new ones of unquestionable legality and legitimacy” because the current electoral process has been vitiated by various acts that undermine the popular will and erode public trust in institutions.”
Law scholar Aníbal Torres of Castillo's Patria Libre party described the appeal as inadmissible because the Constitution establishes that an election can only be annulled when two-thirds of the voters vote flawed or blank.
Meanwhile, three right-wing parliamentarians, one of them of Fujimorist allegiance, surprisingly presented a motion of censure against the Legislature Speaker Mirtha Vásquez and other lawmakers.
Castillo's followers are set to demonstrate Saturday “for the defence of democracy and the Fatherland, No to the coup d'état!.” In Lima, thousands of followers of Castillo will remain vigilant until their candidate is declared the winner. But the country's capital is a stronghold of Fujimorism, where the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori -now sitting in jail for human rights violations- plans a show of force and maintains that Castillo's followers from the rest of the nation are being paid between 50 and 60 soles (between 13 and 15 US dollars to take part in the demonstrations.
Interior Minister José Elice has announced a 3,000-strong police squad will be deployed.