Left-wing political novice sworn in as Peru’s president

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Left-Wing Political Novice Sworn In As Peru’s President
Pedro Castillo
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By Regina Garcia Cano and Mauricio Munoz, Associated Press

Pedro Castillo, a left-wing political novice who has promised to be a champion of his country’s poor, has been sworn in as Peru’s new president.

The rural teacher who has never held political office before was installed less than two weeks after he was declared the winner of the June 6 runoff election. He is Peru’s first president of peasant origin.

In a ceremony in the capital Lima, Mr Castillo made a commitment “for God, for my family, for my peasant sisters and brothers, teachers, patrolmen, children, youth and women, and for a new constitution”.

He then he sang the national anthem, taking off his signature hat and placing it over his heart.


Pedro Castillo arrives at Congress (Francisco Rodriguez/AP)

He succeeds Francisco Sagasti, who had been appointed by Congress in November to lead the South American nation after weeks of political turmoil.

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Mr Castillo, who up until days ago lived with his family in a home deep in the Andes, will face a deeply divided Congress that will make it extremely challenging for him to fulfil his ill-defined campaign promises to aid the poor, who are now estimated to make up about a third of the country’s population.

His political savvy will be immediately tested, and his ability to reach agreements could determine if Congress allows him to finish his term.

“The government of Pedro Castillo still maintains us with considerable uncertainty; we still do not have clear his main lines of policy,” said Claudia Navas, an analyst with the global firm Control Risks.

“However, we foresee that possibly, due to the characteristics of the Peruvian political system and the current general political and economic situation of the country, Castillo will maintain a more pragmatic position than he announced during the campaign.

“The key is to build those consensuses and add strength to the proposals on how he is going to achieve them.”


Pedro Castillo and his wife Lilia Paredes leave the Foreign Ministry (Guadalupe Pardo/AP)

Mr Castillo defeated his opponent, right-wing career politician Keiko Fujimori, by just 44,000 votes.

Peru’s poor and rural citizens supported Mr Castillo and his slogan “No more poor in a rich country”, while the elites favoured Ms Fujimori, the daughter of controversial former president Alberto Fujimori.

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Mr Castillo stunned voters and observers by rising from a pool of 18 candidates and advancing to the runoff, in first place.

His initial proposal to nationalise the mining industry set off alarm bells among business leaders. While that stance has softened, he remains committed to rewriting the constitution that was approved under the regime of Ms Fujimori’s father.

Peru is the second largest copper exporter in the world and mining accounts for almost 10% of its GDP and 60% of its exports. Its economy has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, increasing the poverty level and eliminating the gains of a decade.

In November, Peru had three presidents in a single week after one was impeached by Congress over corruption allegations and protests forced his successor to resign. Legislators then appointed Mr Sagasti.

The pandemic has pushed Peru’s medical and cemetery infrastructure beyond capacity. It has also deepened people’s mistrust of government as it mismanaged the Covid-19 response and a secret vaccination drive for the well-connected erupted into a national scandal.

Mr Castillo has promised vaccines for all Peruvians.

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