A day after taking office, the Pedro Castillo government has faced its first crisis, which has come with the appointment of the first ministerial cabinet. In an unprecedented event, the cabinet was broken before the ministers took office. The conflict was triggered by the surprise appointment of the congressman of the ruling Peru Libre party, Guido Bellido, as president of the Council of Ministers. His appointment, made this Thursday afternoon, unleashed criticism from the right, something to be expected, but also questions from sectors that supported Castillo’s election. Those appointed by the president to head the strategic sector of the Economy and for Justice and Human Rights were removed from the cabinet at the last moment due to their disagreements with Bellido. Until the closing of this note, those two portfolios remained vacant. A complicated start for the peasant and rural teacher who has reached the presidency with a proposal for change that has awakened the hopes of the popular sectors. Popular enthusiasm that remains intact.
“Our cabinet belongs to the people, it is due to the people and it goes to them. Our commitment is with Peru and with no other interest than to dedicate each and every one of our efforts to building a more just, free and dignified country. We will not disappoint your trust, ”Castillo wrote in response to questions to his chief of staff.
The swearing in of Castillo’s first cabinet took place around midnight on Thursday, almost three hours after the announced time. Dissatisfied with Bellido’s appointment, the economist Pedro Francke, Castillo’s main economic advisor and considered safe in the Ministry of Economy, withdrew minutes before the ceremony, leaving the sector without a minister. Francke, who was head of the economic team of the former presidential candidate Verónika Mendoza of the progressive coalition Together for Peru, now an ally of Castillo, has been in charge of putting together the economic proposals of the new government and in recent weeks he had been meeting with investors and financial agents to inform them about those policies. His resignation at the last minute opens a void and is a severe blow to the government.
The character at the center of this first government crisis, Guido Bellido, 41, is the main leader of PL in the Andean region of Cusco and considered close to the founder and secretary general of the party, Vladimir Cerrón, who defines himself as Marxist-Leninist. Cerrón is a contested former governor with a three-year suspended sentence on corruption charges. This Friday it was announced that the prosecution has included him in an investigation into another corruption case and that he has asked that his sentence be changed to effective prison. Bellido and Cerrón have criticized Castillo’s center-left allies, and have spoken out for the president to apply the party ideology that talks about nationalizing the economy. Francke had assured that there will be no nationalizations, a position made his by Castillo.
There is much talk of an arm wrestling between Castillo and Cerrón for spaces of power in the government. Prevented from running for president due to his corruption sentence, Cerrón invited Castillo to take that place. Now he is looking for a leading space in power. His legal problems seriously complicate him. The president seeks to open his government beyond the party, moderate radical positions of the Marxist-Leninist ideology of PL, while the secretary general of the official group presses for the party to have hegemony in the government and shows his disgust with the alliances that Castillo seeks to build looking to the center-left. Bellido’s appointment to a key position as chief of the ministerial cabinet has been seen as an advance by Cerrón in this fight. However, Cerrón has not been able to place the Minister of Economy, as he intended. After Francke’s departure, Castillo chose to leave the position vacant. I would be trying to convince you to reconsider your decision. On Friday the two met for two hours.
The right wing points to Bellido as a radical and accuses him of having alleged sympathies with the defeated Shining Path armed group. He has an open investigation in a prosecutor’s office for apology to terrorism, a legal figure that lends itself to abuses against freedom of expression, for statements given a few months ago in which he described the senderistas as “Peruvians who have taken a wrong path” and that “they also have rights.” He is also questioned having sent a message of praise on social networks about the guerrilla Edith Lagos, a senderista killed in a confrontation almost forty years ago, in 1982. Allies of Castillo’s center-left criticize Bellido for homophobic and macho expressions.
“They have resisted the enormous pressure for Bellido to resign. Accusing Bellido of apology to terrorism is a typical campaign of the right. His questionable homophobic and macho positions generate a conflict for Castillo with his center-left allies. The government has to get organized, it cannot continue to play to surprise its allies, as it has done with the appointment of Bellido. It is worrying that a government that is just beginning has a crisis of this nature. What happened reveals that the government has internal conflicts and that gives arms to the right, ”the sociologist and political analyst Alberto Adrianzén told Página 12.
Although Francke left the cabinet, the center-left JP coalition, to which he belongs, has ratified its support for the government and has two ministers: congressman and party president Roberto Sánchez on Foreign Trade and Tourism, and sociologist Anahí Durand, who was head of the government plan of Verónika Mendoza, in Women and Vulnerable Populations. It is hoped that Durand, defender of the rights of women and the LGTBI community, can act in his sector by curbing Bellido’s questioned positions.
As Page 12 had anticipated, in Health the doctor and ex-congressman of the leftist Frente Amplio Hernando Cevallos, who studied medicine at the National University of La Plata in Argentina and comes from public health, took office, and in Education the teacher Juan Cadillo, professor of a public school in the interior of the country, such as Castillo, and recognized for its work with several national and international awards. There are two sectors that Castillo has announced will be a priority in his management. In Agrarian Development, a ministry of special significance for a president of peasant origin, the president of the peasant organization Confederación Nacional Agraria, Víctor Maita, assumes.
In Foreign Relations, the sociologist Héctor Béjar, an 85-year-old ex-guerrilla and renowned intellectual, was appointed. Founder of the National Liberation Army, he participated in the Guevarista guerrillas in 1965. Arrested in 1966, he was in prison until 1970 when he was pardoned by the government of left-wing General Juan Velasco, in whose regime he worked until the fall of Velasco in 1975. He has written several books and worked in university teaching.
It is a cabinet with only two women – in addition to Anahí Durand there is Vice President Dina Boluarte in the Ministry of Inclusion and Social Development – of seventeen already appointed ministers, and with many unknown faces.
“The prolongation of Castillo’s proclamation as president due to the unsubstantiated claims of Fujimori of an alleged electoral fraud has not allowed him enough time to coordinate a better cabinet, which is unknown because the majority are unknown. It seems to me that Béjar in Foreign Relations is a very good decision, I believe that he is going to resume a more sovereign foreign policy, more independent from the United States, that Peru is going to leave the Lima Group and is going to be closer to Argentina , Bolivia and Mexico, which will support the proposal of an OAS without the United States, bet on refloating UNASUR and strengthening CELAC. It seems to me that Béjar and Cevallos are the ones with the most political weight in the cabinet. Francke would be in that group, and if he returns it would be very good for the government ”, says Adrianzén.