After Mexico president backs Peru's Castillo, Boluarte to call leaders

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo at the VII Ministerial Summit on Government and Digital Transformation of the Americas
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo addresses the audience during the opening of the VII Ministerial Summit on Government and Digital Transformation of the Americas, in Lima, Peru on November 10, 2022. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda/File Photo

MEXICO CITY, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Peru's new president, Dina Boluarte, moved to ease diplomatic tensions on Tuesday, saying she would talk with regional leaders who have come to her jailed predecessor's defense, after her Mexican counterpart announced a pause in relations with Peru.

Former President Pedro Castillo was ousted and then arrested last week after lawmakers in the opposition-controlled Congress voted to remove him from power shortly after he illegally sought to dissolve Congress to avoid a third impeachment vote.

On Tuesday morning, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized the removal of Castillo, a fellow leftist, as undemocratic.

"The will of the people who elected (Castillo) should be respected," Lopez Obrador told reporters at a regular government news conference, arguing that Castillo had won a free election last year and could not be removed.

On Monday, the governments of Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia and Argentina issued a joint statement calling for the protection of Castillo's human and judicial rights and labeled him "a victim of undemocratic harassment."

Boluarte, previously the vice president under Castillo, responded on Tuesday, defending Castillo's ouster as lawful due to what she described as his attempted coup. She told reporters that she would call Lopez Obrador, as well as the presidents of the other three signatories of the statement, to discuss the matter.

"Diplomatic relations remain the same with these brother nations," she said.

But Boluarte also said that Argentine President Alberto Fernandez had called to congratulate her last week. She expressed confusion as to why his government had signed on to Monday's critical statement.

Lopez Obrador often argues that he follows a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries. But on Tuesday the Mexican leader stressed that for now he would recognize Castillo as Peru's leader.

"Relations are on hold as we wait to see what happens," he said. "Hopefully a democratic solution can be found."

Later on Tuesday, Peru's presidential office said on Twitter that Boluarte had received 14 European ambassadors in the government palace, including envoys from the European Union, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. She had also met with U.S. Ambassador Lisa Kenna, the presidency said.

Meanwhile, across Peru angry protests against the removal of Castillo continued, leaving at least six dead - five teenagers and a 38-year-old man.

Protesters argue that Boluarte should step down, the Congress dissolved and a fresh election called.

On Tuesday, Boluarte proposed bringing elections forward even earlier than her proposal of last week.

She said then they could take place in April 2024, two years ahead of elections currently scheduled for 2026, but on Tuesday said she would work with Congress to move them up even earlier, though she did not propose a specific date.

Reporting by Valentine Hilaire in Mexico City and Marco Aquino in Lima; Editing by Grant McCool and Bradley Perrett

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