Peru: new president appoints fellow Marxist as prime minister

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Ernesto Arias/AP</span>
Photograph: Ernesto Arias/AP

A day after being sworn in as Peru’s president, Pedro Castillo has appointed a far-left lawmaker and member of his Marxist party, Guido Bellido, as prime minister, ending expectations of a moderate government.

Beginning nearly three hours late, Castillo swore in an incomplete cabinet on Thursday night that included several figures from the far left and only two women. He did not appoint a finance minister, and Pedro Francke, the favourite for the post, was seen leaving the venue minutes before the ceremony began.

The exit of the former World Bank technocrat, who had calmed investor fears during the lengthy vote count after the runoff vote in June, raised questions about whether he had walked or was pushed out.

The absence of a finance minister is likely to cause uncertainty in the Peruvian markets, which are already spooked by Castillo’s administration. The appointment of an insider from his Free Perú party to head the cabinet will cause further alarm.

Castillo’s appointment of Bellido at a ceremony in the Andean region of Ayacucho earlier on Thursday prompted anger and disappointment among centrist politicians who had supported his narrow win over his far-right rival, Keiko Fujimori.

Bellido, 42, a native of the Cusco region, is being investigated for alleged “apology for terrorism”, a crime in Peru. In an interview with local media in April, he defended members of the Shining Path, the Maoist rebel group that killed tens of thousands of Peruvians in the 1980s and 90s in an attempt to seize power.

He has also expressed homophobic and misogynistic views on social media, attacking local politicians known to be homosexual or advertising what he considers to be promoting a “pro-gay agenda”, sometimes mixing his comments with a radical leftwing stance.

Castillo’s choice has alienated potential allies. The Purple party, which has three lawmakers, said it could not support Bellido. It said he did not believe in “democracy, human rights, and the fight against corruption and terrorism,” and would not give him its vote of confidence.

Castillo’s party hasonly 37 out of 130 seats in congress, and the appointment of Bellido and his cabinet will need to be approved by the opposition-led chamber where centrist and rightwing parties are likely to oppose his appointment.

Peru has had four presidents and two congresses in the last five years of political turmoil. The new chamber got off to a petulant start, flouting protocol on Wednesdaywhen it prevented the outgoing caretaker president, Francisco Sagasti, from entering the building to hand over the presidential sash to Castillo.

“So ends the calamitous first day of Pedro Castillo’s government,” tweeted Gonzalo Banda, a political analyst and columnist. “Worst start, almost impossible,.”

Even the leftwing newspaper La República criticised Bellido’s appointment in an editorial that urged Castillo not to “betray the trust of a society that mainly voted for change” in favour of the proposals of a “tiny, outdated and delusional faction”.

The Free Perú party is led by Vladimir Cerrón, a Cuban-educated neurosurgeon who admires Venezuela’s government. Critics say Castillo became the party’s candidate because Cerrón was unable to run for office because of previous corruption charges.

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