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Peru president open to early election talks, says not the time to change constitution

file photo: peruvian vice president boluarte's swearing in after congress approved removal of president castillo, in lima
Peru's Vice President Dina Boluarte, who was called on by Congress to take the office of president after the legislature approved the removal of President Pedro Castillo in an impeachment trial, attends her swearing-in ceremony in Lima, Peru December 7, 2022. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda/File Photo

Peru’s President Dina Boluarte said on Friday she is willing to discuss early elections with the country’s political and civil organizations, but ruled out kick-starting constitutional changes for the time being.

Boluarte, who took office on Wednesday hours after her predecessor Pedro Castillo was ousted, said she was calling for calm as protests broke out in support of the former president.

Early morning footage on local television showed hundreds of farmers blocking a stretch of Peru’s main coastal highway demanding early elections.

“If society and if the situation warrants bringing forward elections, then in conversation with the democratic and political forces in Congress, we will sit down to talk,” she told reporters by her house on her way to the government palace.

“I am not the one who caused this situation, I am only fulfilling the constitutional role,” she added, calling on the “sisters and brothers who are coming out in protest … to calm down.”

The 60-year-old lawyer Boluarte, who was Castillo’s vice president, became the first woman to assume the country’s presidency and is now set to hold the post until 2026.

Asked about calls from some leftist parties to draft a new constitution, Boluarte said the long-standing demand should not be abandoned.

“I think this is not the time. Right now Peru is going through a political crisis and we still need to solve the economic and food crisis,” she said.

She added that she would name her new cabinet members on Friday or Saturday.

Boluarte said she plans to visit former President Castillo in prison, adding his “coup d’état surprised us all, including his ministers.”

Castillo was detained and removed from office shortly after he tried to dissolve Congress, hours before lawmakers were set to vote on his impeachment. He is now facing criminal charges.

Peru’s surprise change of leadership has not caused negative effects on markets so far. Analysts said economic and financial institutions in the world’s No.2 copper producing nation remain resilient to political volatility.

However, Boluarte, who called for a political truce in her first speech as president, will have to be careful to avoid the fate of other leaders who left the post before their terms ended.

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