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Canada takes sides as hemisphere splits over who rules Peru



Canada has recognized Dina Boluarte as the new president of Peru and has sent its ambassador in Lima to convey a message of support to the new government in person — putting Ottawa firmly on one side of a crisis that has split the hemisphere into two rival blocs.

In a media statement, Peru’s new foreign minister Ana Cecilia Gervasi — who was until recently Peru’s consul-general in Toronto — said she had met Canadian Ambassador Louis Marcotte and “reiterated Peru’s gratitude for the commitment of his country to work with President Dina Boluarte.”

On Thursday, a Lima court ordered deposed president Pedro Castillo held without bail for 18 months as he awaits trial on charges of rebellion after a failed attempt to suspend Peru’s congress and constitution last week.

Castillo, an unpopular left-wing president whose term in office has been marked by scandals, shocked the country on December 7 when he went on national television and announced that he would rule with emergency powers.

A man gestures while seated at a table.
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo gives a press conference at the presidential palace in Lima, Peru on Oct. 11, 2022. (Martin Mejia/The Associated Press)

But his attempt at what South Americans call an “autogolpe” or “self-coup” turned into farce when it became clear he had no real backing from Peru’s armed forces, police or judiciary — or even his own cabinet.

Within a few hours, his family abandoned the presidential palace and headed for the Mexican Embassy in search of asylum. But his own bodyguards stopped his motorcade and instead took him into a police station. There he was placed under arrest and then criminally charged by his own attorney-general, while Congress voted to depose him and swear in his vice-president as his replacement.

Dina Boluarte became Peru’s first female president just hours after Castillo’s announcement, flight and arrest. But that proved to be just the beginning of Peru’s latest crisis.

On Thursday night, as disturbances rocked cities across the country, the Peruvian government declared several regional curfews on top of an existing national state of emergency. At least eighteen people have died in clashes between Castillo supporters and police.

Supporters of ousted Peruvian President Pedro Castillo work together to roll a boulder onto the Pan-American North Highway during a protest against his detention, in Chao, Peru, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022.
Supporters of ousted Peruvian President Pedro Castillo work together to roll a boulder onto the Pan-American North Highway during a protest against his detention in Chao, Peru on Dec. 15, 2022. (Hugo Curotto/Associated Press)

Mexico has emerged as Castillo’s strongest international backer. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (widely known as “AMLO”) has acknowledged that he spoke with Castillo prior to the Peruvian president’s arrest. He has accused Peru’s upper classes (“pitucos”) of treating Castillo with disdain because of his peasant origins.

AMLO has since said Mexico doesn’t recognize Castillo’s removal from office — declared by Peru’s congress in accordance with the country’s constitution after a vote of 101-6 — and does not recognize Boluarte as president.

On Thursday, Peru recalled its ambassador from Mexico. It also pulled its ambassadors from Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia after those countries signed on to a Mexican statement deploring the removal of Castillo.

On Wednesday, the ALBA bloc of nations formed by former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, meeting in Havana, also expressed its support for Castillo. The group unites Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela with six Caribbean nations: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

But while Castillo received widespread support from the Latin American left, there were two major voices missing from the chorus.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro gives a press statement at the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia on November 1, 2022. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)

It was no surprise when Brazil’s lame-duck president Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist, accepted the removal of a president backed by a Marxist party. Much less certain was the attitude of his rival on the left, Lula Da Silva of the Workers Party, who recently defeated Bolsonaro at the polls and will take office on January 1.

But Lula accepted that it was Castillo who broke Peru’s legal order by attempting to suspend the constitution.

“It is always regrettable that a democratically elected president has this fate,” he wrote. “But I understand that everything was forwarded in the constitutional framework.”

Chile’s “democratic socialist” President Gabriel Boric took the same view, expressed in a communique from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “The Government of Chile condemns the rupture of constitutional order in Peru and appreciates that the political crisis coming out of it is being addressed through institutional channels.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President of the Republic of Chile Gabriel Boric participate in a Q&A session with local students in Ottawa on Monday, June 6, 2022. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The United Nations and the Organization of American States also have both accepted the transition as legitimate and have recognized the new government.

With the U.S. also taking the position that Castillo was the author of his own downfall, the western hemisphere appeared thoroughly split on the question of who is the legitimate president in Peru.

On one side, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, the U.S. and Uruguay all back the new government.

Ranged against them are Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Paraguay, Guatemala and El Salvador appear not to have taken a clear stand as yet.

The European Union and the United Kingdom also support the new Peruvian government. Russia also appeared to acquiesce in the transition to a new government, choosing not to side with its close allies Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The most significant opponent of Peru’s new government may be AMLO, who had cultivated a relationship with Pedro Castillo and who offered him asylum as his planned takeover fell apart.

AMLO is accused by many in his own country of trying to weaken democratic institutions.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has emerged as one of Castillo’s most prominent political supporters. (Fernando Llano/The Associated Press)

On Thursday, his MORENA party approved a new law that abolishes Mexico’s independent elections authority — a move critics say aims to roll back decades of democratic progress in Mexico.

And on Tuesday, AMLO joked about the possibility of a “Plan B” — which would involve claiming that it’s impossible to hold elections and giving himself a second term in office that would last until 2030.

“There’s always a little devil. He’s great, and sometimes he gives me tips,” AMLO said, laughing, adding that the devil was encouraging him to launch Plan B.

Electorally, the left is currently ascendant in Latin America, following a string of victories culminating in Lula’s return to power in Brazil. It is also disunited.

While the split that has emerged over Castillo vs. Boluarte to some extent echoes the debate over Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his rival Juan Guaido in 2019, it also reveals growing fractures within the left on questions of democracy and rights.

Chile’s Boric in particular has aggravated countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua by condemning their rights abuses, and saying that the Latin left needs to stop making excuses for authoritarianism.

Castillo, meanwhile, appears to have been re-energized by his international backers. Last week he said through his lawyer that he could not even recall giving his televised speech, claiming that he had been given a drink beforehand that left him “befuddled.”

This week, he tweeted from his jail cell that he would “NOT RESIGN OR ABANDON MY HIGH AND SACRED FUNCTIONS” and denounced the words of his former vice president as “the snot and spittle of a coup-mongering Right.”

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Northwest Territories releases fiscal year 2023-2024 budget



Northwest Territories releases fiscal year 2023-2024 budget

The Northwest Territories government released its new budget Wednesday, the last before the territorial election set for the fall.

Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said the plan aims to maintain the stability of the territory’s economy during times of “volatility and uncertainty” without reducing services and programs.

“I am confident that we are leaving the next assembly with a fiscally sustainable foundation on which to build,” she said.

The proposed $2.2-billion budget forecasts the territory will have an operating surplus of nearly $178 million. It projects revenue to increase by 2.9 per cent, largely due to an increase in federal transfers, while spending will increase by $187 million or 7.3 per cent compared to the previous budget.


Wawzonek said initiatives to address the rising cost of living in the North include increasing student financial assistance, improved income assistance for seniors and people with disabilities, and support for non-government organizations.

“Students, seniors, the non-profit sector, these are areas where we can have a real impact and hopefully help mitigate the impacts of inflation,” she said.

Increased spending in the budget is to include $82 million for mandate priorities and enhancements to existing programs, as well as $62 million to cover the costs of flooding in 2022. Thousands of residents in Hay River and the nearby K’atl’odeeche First Nation reserve were ordered to evacuate their homes due to the worst flooding on record in May.

Other budget highlights include $10.9 million for the transition from the pandemic to endemic stage of COVID-19, $10.1 million to help recruit and retain front-line health-care workers, $10.3 million for the territory’s $10-a-day child-care agreement with the federal government, $8.3 million to help offset the effects of the increased carbon tax, and $4 million for core Northwest Territories Housing Corporation programs.

The budget also proposes $833,000 for community governments and $89,000 for the Deline Goti’ne Government to reach the territory’s goal of reducing its municipal funding gap by $5 million between 2019 and 2023.

The N.W.T. government is not proposing any new taxes, but property taxes are expected to increase due to inflation. The territory also plans to change its carbon tax system to align with new federal requirements.

The federal government announced in August 2021 it would increase the carbon price by $15 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, starting at $65 a tonne beginning in April and rising to $170 a tonne by 2030. It is also prohibiting rebates that directly offset the carbon tax. In response, the N.W.T. plans to adjust its carbon tax rates, replace its heating fuel rebate by increasing its cost of living offset, and replace a carbon tax rebate for large emitters with a rebate tied to a facility-specific baseline.

Some legislature members have expressed concern with the plan as heating costs are high in the North, especially in the Arctic, and many communities are reliant on diesel.

Wawzonek said if the proposed changes aren’t passed by the legislature, the federal government will determine how to return revenue to the N.W.T.

The territory projects borrowing will increase by 4.5 per cent, bringing its total debt to about $1.5 billion, which it said is well below the federally imposed limit of $1.8 billion.

When the previous budget was tabled a year ago, the territory expected its total debt to increase to more than $1.6 billion by the end of the fiscal year. In October, however, the territory revised its capital estimates or the amount of money it expected to spend on infrastructure, to better reflect the territory’s capacity to complete projects, reducing spending from more than $500 million to a cap of $260 million.

The territory’s 2022-2023 $2.1-billion budget saw a 2.3 per cent increase in spending compared to 2021-2022.

Wawzonek touted that budget as a sustainable plan, promising to not cut programming or add new taxes while limiting new spending.

While the budget was passed in April 2022, several legislature members opposed the plan, criticizing limited spending on communities outside of Yellowknife.

Wawzonek said at a news conference Wednesday that she suspects there may be similar criticisms of the new budget.

She said, however, that she believes the budget can respond to those concerns, adding she has had discussions with legislature members about what they wanted to see in it.

“I think we as a collective 19 are getting a little better at doing that,” she said.

“I actually think this is maybe going to be the best year for the consensus-style approach to passing a budget.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Driver charged with first-degree murder in Quebec daycare bus attack that killed two



Quebec daycare bus attack

The driver of a bus that crashed into a suburban Montreal daycare this morning, killing two children, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Pierre Ny St-Amand, 51, appeared by video late this afternoon from a hospital room and will remain detained

Court documents show he faces a total of nine charges, including attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm.

Six other children were injured and transported to hospitals in Laval and Montreal, but doctors said their lives were not in danger.


At around 8:30 a.m., a Société de transport de Laval bus crashed into the daycare building, which sits at the end of a driveway a significant distance from the nearest bus route.

Witnesses who rushed to the scene said they had to subdue the driver, who seemed to be delirious and removed his clothing after getting off the bus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey after earthquake



Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey

A senior government official says a Canadian assessment team is on its way to Turkey to determine how Canada can contribute to earthquake relief efforts.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan was expected to formally announce the deployment of the Canadian Disaster Assessment Team this evening.

The senior official, who spoke on background pending Sajjan’s official confirmation, said the team consists of a handful of military and Global Affairs officials.

The official underscored that the deployment of the team does not automatically guarantee a further deployment of Canadian resources to the country.


The earthquake, which razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria on Monday, is one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade and the federal government is facing criticism that the window to help with rescue efforts is closing.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of local emergency personnel and Canadian humanitarian aid workers with charitable organizations were arriving Wednesday

Defence Minister Anita Anand said late Tuesday that the federal government had not ruled out sending a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the recovery effort, but that it was working to figure out what would be most useful.

The assessment team would recommend whether to send additional support, such as a DART.

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match funds donated to Canadian Red Cross relief efforts up to $10 million on top of an initial aid package of $10 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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