Peru Pedro Castillo takes over presidency amid political tensions and divisions

Peru Pedro Castillo takes over presidency amid political tensions and divisions

LIMA – Peru Pedro Castillo will assume the presidency on Wednesday with little time to catch his breath as he battles the world’s deadliest Covid-19 epidemic, tensions within his socialist party and weak support from the Congress in a strongly divided nation.

Castillo, the son of peasants, will be sworn in at around noon local time in Congress and then address the nation, which was nearly halved by a June 6 polarized ballot won by a margin of just 44,000 votes.

The brutal rise of Castillo, a former teacher, has shaken Peru’s traditional political elite and stung copper producers out of fear of his intention to raise taxes on mining to fund health reforms and education and reorganize the constitution of the Andean nation.

All eyes will be on his first message as president and the makeup of his cabinet of ministers, still secretive amid bargaining between the more radical wing of his Marxist Peru Libre party and more moderate advisers and allies.

“Castillo’s message will set the guidelines for the start of his government. But the firm and the team it announces will tell us even more about where we are heading, ”said Jeffrey Radzinsky, a governance expert based in Lima.

A key signal will be the economic portfolio, sources close to Castillo saying it will go to Pedro Francke, a moderate left-wing economist, who has helped soften the image of the foreign candidate and calm nervous markets in recent months.

The inauguration comes after Castillo, 51, edged out right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori, although his victory was not confirmed until last week. Fujimori had alleged fraud without proof and disputed the result, drawing comparisons to Donald Trump’s tactics after losing the 2020 US presidential election.

Castillo will face a fragmented Congress where he lacks support for key commitments, including plans to redesign the constitution, as well as tensions with his party’s far-left wing, led by Marxist physician Vladimir Cerrón .

He also faces a balance between the powerful mining sector of the world’s second-largest copper producer and the need to raise taxes to alleviate growing poverty and keep the promises made to his rural base that led to his unlikely rise to the presidency.

“Castillo needs to unite the hard core of his party, but he must do it without destroying the image that the people have of him, that is, he is against radicalism,” Radzinsky added .

The Presidents of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as the King of Spain and an American delegation, will be in Lima, the capital of Peru, for the inauguration, which coincides with the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence in 1821. .

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