The appointment of a radical as prime minister frightens the moderate profiles of the Castillo government

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Pedro Castillo is experiencing his first government crisis even before he has had time to form a cabinet. The appointment as prime minister of a homophobic and radical politician, without experience in management, has unleashed a wave of criticism that has given rise to an internal dispute. The one who until now had been its economic guru, Pedro Francke, the man who had calmed the markets and had met with businessmen and ambassadors to assure them that Peru would not expropriate companies or intervene their currency, has resigned as the Minister of Economy . At night he was seen leaving alone and with his head down from the room where the rest of the ministers were to be appointed.

Castillo had summoned the nation at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday to make his cabinet known. A table, a Bible and a crucifix had been placed on the stage of the Grand National Theater in Lima. That was where the oath was to be celebrated. The televisions had no choice but to broadcast a static image of the utensils for hours. Nobody appeared there. It was not until almost midnight, two and a half hours late, that the new ministers began to swear in office. Two of the key ministries, Justice and Economy, were left vacant. The crisis made it impossible to complete the puzzle.

The issue that stirred the creation of the first cabinet was hatched in the morning. Castillo appointed Guido Bellido as the country’s prime minister. He is a radical leftist who considers that Cuba is not a dictatorship or the Shining Path a terrorist group. It is the share of power of Vladimir Cerrón, the leader of Peru Libre, the party that invited Castillo to stand in the elections under his acronym. The school teacher said in a campaign that Cerrón would not make any decision or join his cabinet under any circumstances, but instead he has put someone of Cerrón’s utmost confidence.

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The appointment angered the more moderate wing that has advised Castillo, including Francke. The sectors of the center and left that supported him have felt betrayed. Some key figures have publicly expressed their disagreement, without half measures. Julio Arbizu and Ronald Gamarra, two renowned jurists who defended Castillo from the accusations of electoral fraud that Keiko Fujimori poured on him, said that this initial move is a bad move by the president. “First serious mistake of the Government, appointing as premier a person who, instead of affirming alliances and consensuses achieved, scares them. This beyond the homophobic statements I just read and they are unacceptable. I hope the direction taken is reconsidered, ”Arbizu wrote on Twitter. “Today is my last day in the (Castillo) Team. Here I record my estrangement. Nothing with Cerrón, nothing with Bellido ”, Gamarra added on WhatsApp.

Bellido’s appointment has caused such a storm that it seems difficult for the cabinet to be ratified in Congress, as required by law. You need a simple majority to get ahead. Should Castillo not succeed, he would have to propose another candidate for prime minister. If that second did not receive the confidence of the chamber either, the president could close Congress and call legislative elections.

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Meanwhile, Castillo has managed to recruit the rest of the ministers, some of them experienced professionals in key sectors. This is the case of the former prosecutor against organized crime, Juan Carrasco, who takes over as Minister of the Interior. The lawyer has faced the gangs of hitmen in Lambayeque, the region most affected by extortion and criminal gangs in Peru. Or the Foreign Minister, Héctor Béjar, a leftist intellectual, not affiliated with any party, who was a guerrilla in the 1960s.

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Vice President Dina Boluarte, a member of the Peru Libre party, although closer to Castillo than to Cerrón, will take over as the head of the Ministry of Social Inclusion Development, which in recent months had the role of organizing the delivery of aid to the population that fell in poverty due to the pandemic. She is one of only two women he has appointed so far, of almost a score of positions. The doctor Hernando Cevallos, whom Castillo recruited from the second round campaign to prepare the proposals to combat the pandemic, took office as Minister of Health.

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