Peru's Castillo comes out fighting after impeachment vote, slams 'institutional crisis'

March 15 (Reuters) - Peruvian President Pedro Castillo on Tuesday rejected allegations of corruption and told Congress, which passed a motion to impeach him earlier this week, that all branches of government are in crisis right now.

"Peru is going through an institutional crisis without precedent," Castillo said in a rare hour-long speech. "We will send to the Congress of the republic a set of reforms that will allow us to overcome this structural crisis," he said.

The speech marked Castillo's most aggressive defense so far of his embattled administration, which is facing allegations of corruption that he denies. Since taking office in July, Castillo's approval rating has slipped fast, now hovering at around 25%.

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While Castillo recognized errors, he did not name any. Castillo's government has been marked by crises and he has cycled through more Cabinet members than any other administration in recent history, including four prime ministers.

An impeachment attempt in December failed to get enough votes to be admitted in the opposition-led Congress, but a second effort this week passed. Castillo is now scheduled to go through an impeachment trial on March 28, after which Congress will need 66% support to oust him.

Peru, the world's second-biggest copper producer after Chile, has had five different presidents since 2018, a period marked by infighting between the different branches of political power, including frequent impeachment attempts.

"I understand the power of Congress to exercise oversight and political control, however, these mechanisms cannot be exercised by mediating the abuse of the right, proscribed in the constitution, ignoring the popular will expressed at the polls," he said.

In a later news conference, Prime Minister Anibal Torres said he had asked Castillo to propose a law to bring forward the next general election to mid-2023, but the president did not accept and told him he was going to make "a last attempt" for agreement with the Congress.

Peru's next general election is scheduled for the first quarter of 2026.

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Reporting by Carolina Pulice and Marco Aquino; Editing by Stephen Coates and Christopher Cushing

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