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Castillo forms government amid a wave of criticism

The appointment of the controversial Prime Minister Guido Bellido generates the total rejection of the Andean political chessboard
AFP/LUKAS GONZALEZ  -   El candidato presidencial peruano de izquierda por el partido Perú Libre, Pedro Castillo, da un discurso a sus partidarios desde un balcón en su sede de campaña durante su mitin de cierre en Lima el 3 de junio de 2021

AFP/LUKAS GONZALEZ  -   Peru's leftist presidential candidate for the Peru Libre party, Pedro Castillo, gives a speech to supporters from a balcony at his campaign headquarters during his closing rally in Lima on June 3, 2021.

Peru officially has a new government. A day after his inauguration, Pedro Castillo swore in the ministers who will make up his cabinet at the Gran Teatro Nacional in the San Borja district of Lima. The ceremony, originally scheduled for 8 p.m. local time, was postponed until 11 p.m. amid the disturbances in the vicinity and the climate of uncertainty about the direction the country will take.

The Andean Executive will be made up of a total of 16 ministers. Among the most prominent figures are former revolutionary guerrilla Héctor Béjar, who will become foreign minister. For his part, the doctor Hernando Cevallos will finally be in charge of controlling the pandemic at the head of the Ministry of Health. Likewise, lawyer Walter Ayala, former prosecutor Juan Manuel Carrasco and professor Juan Castillo will head the Defence, Interior and Education portfolios, respectively.

AP/MARTIN MEJIA - Más de una semana después de la segunda vuelta de las elecciones presidenciales entre Castillo y Keiko Fujimori, las autoridades electorales dicen que están escrutando un pequeño número de papeletas en medio de denuncias de fraude no probadas por parte de Fujimori
AP/MARTIN MEJIA - More than a week after the presidential runoff election between Castillo and Keiko Fujimori, election authorities say they are counting a small number of ballots amid unproven allegations of fraud by Fujimori.

Only two ministries will be headed by women. Those chosen are vice-president Dina Boluarte, as head of the Ministry of Social Development and Social Inclusion, and sociologist Anahí Durand, as minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations. The two pending appointments would be Justice and Economy, two key ministries according to Castillo's plans, which in turn are related to a possible constitutional reform and a 180º change in economic matters.

The name of Pedro Francke, an economist and advisor to the Peru Libre candidacy after the second round of the elections, had been strongly tipped for the finance portfolio, and he had tried to reassure economic actors in recent weeks. However, as he himself revealed to the Andean daily La República, he will not be joining the government in the end. The newspaper reveals that the reason for this decision lies in the appointment of the controversial prime minister, Guido Bellido.

Simpatizantes del candidato presidencial de izquierda por el partido Perú Libre, Pedro Castillo, se manifiestan en la ciudad andina de Puno, cerca de la frontera con Bolivia, en Perú, el 14 de junio de 2021 PHOTO/AFP
AP/GUADALUPE PARDO-A supporter of presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori holds a sign with a message that reads in Spanish: "My family says, No to Communism" during a protest against alleged electoral fraud, in Lima, Peru, Saturday, June 12, 2021.

Bellido's appointment has undoubtedly been the most controversial. The engineer by profession and congressman for Perú Libre will head the Council of Ministers while he is being investigated by the Andean justice system for allegedly justifying terrorism for his comments on television. "The country was in a mess, there were Peruvians who mistakenly took a path, are they Peruvians or not? What do you have against the Shining Path," Bellido said on 23 April, referring to the far-left terrorist organisation Shining Path, responsible for 70,000 murders.

Before his official appointment, Bellido took part in a symbolic act from La Pampa de la Quinua, in the province of Ayacucho, the site of the battle that ended the Spanish Empire's domination of South America in 1824. "For the more than 30 million brothers and sisters, for the fight against corruption, for work for our Peruvian people (...) yes, I swear," declared the prime minister, who also spoke in Quechua.

El candidato presidencial peruano de izquierda por el partido Perú Libre, Pedro Castillo  AFP/ ERNESTO BENAVIDES
AFP/ ERNESTO BENAVIDES-Peruvian left-wing presidential candidate for the Peru Libre party, Pedro Castillo

Bellido is also a figure close to Peru Libre leader Vladimir Cerrón. The founder of the Marxist-Leninist formation was convicted of corruption while he was governing for the second time in the department of Junín, which prevented him from continuing in office. Cerrón, like Bellido, has strong ties to the Venezuelan and Cuban regimes. In fact, the new prime minister does not consider the Caribbean country to be a dictatorship. 

However, the centre of criticism of his figure has focused on his openly homophobic and misogynist statements, expressed through social networks. In any case, the agenda of Perú Libre and the new president is not far from these postulates. Castillo has spoken out against same-sex marriage, as well as abortion and euthanasia. In his inauguration speech, the teacher also assured that he would expel all foreign criminals from the country within 72 hours, and that he would send young people who did not study or work to military service. His profile, at least in this respect, is deeply conservative.

Simpatizantes del candidato presidencial de izquierda por el partido Perú Libre, Pedro Castillo, se manifiestan en la ciudad andina de Puno, cerca de la frontera con Bolivia, en Perú, el 14 de junio de 2021 PHOTO/AFP
PHOTO/AFP-Supporters of left-wing presidential candidate for the Peru Libre party, Pedro Castillo, demonstrate in the Andean city of Puno, near the border with Bolivia, in Peru, on June 14, 2021.

The rejection has been almost total. Castillo's predecessor, Francisco Sagasti, claimed that Bellido's appointment generates "instability and misgovernment". The rest of the political spectrum has also spoken out against him, and he has been accused of "not believing in democracy, human rights and the fight against corruption and terrorism".

The truth is that Castillo finds himself between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the hard core of the party for which he is running for president, Peru Libre, is trying to drag him into the party's most radical precepts. Bellido himself comes from this wing. On the other, figures such as Francke and Verónika Mendoza, leader of the Nuevo Perú movement, have tried to moderate Castillo's approach without apparent success. The dance begins.