Leftist Pedro Castillo is due to be sworn in as President of Peru on Wednesday with an inbox full: tame the coronavirus epidemic, reactivate a declining economy and end years of political unrest.
The teacher in a rural school becomes Peru’s fifth president in three years and has pledged to overthrow a quarter-century of neoliberal government.
He was declared the winner on July 19, more than six weeks after a run-off against right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori, whose fraud allegations were later examined by an election jury.
Three days of ceremony are planned, starting with the swearing-in on Wednesday, Peru’s Independence Day – an event attended by Spain’s King Felipe VI, six Latin American leaders, former Bolivian President Evo Morales and the US Secretary of Education among the guests.
A military parade is scheduled for Lima on Friday.
Castillo, 51, becomes Peru’s first president in decades without any connection to the country’s political or economic elite.
He promised reform to ensure that there are “no more poor people in a rich country,” but softened his initial campaign rhetoric on nationalization.
Castillo’s Peru Libre party lacks a majority in a fragmented congress, holding 37 of 130 seats. Fujimori’s Popular Force Party has 24.
– ‘We will not expropriate’ –
The country is hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic. With nearly 200,000 deaths among its 32 million people, it has the highest death rate in the world.
Prolonged containment in the event of a pandemic in 2020 is responsible for the loss of millions of jobs and the country’s plunge into recession. GDP fell by more than 11%.
As chief economic adviser, Castillo appointed World Bank economist Pedro Francke, seen as a moderating influence on his boss, who initially said Peru’s mineral and hydrocarbon wealth – a mainstay of the economy – “must be nationalized”.
Francke swore, in an interview with AFP, that “we will not expropriate, we will not nationalize, we will not impose generalized price controls, we will not make any exchange controls that prevent you from buying and to sell dollars or withdraw dollars from the campaign. “
Last month, the president-elect himself declared that “we are not communists, no one has come to destabilize this country”.
It is widely hoped that Castillo will end years of political upheaval in Peru.
A series of corruption scandals resulted in the appointment of three different presidents in a single week last November.
Seven of the country’s last 10 leaders have been convicted or under investigation for corruption, and Fujimori herself faces a looming corruption trial for allegedly taking illicit campaign funds for two previous presidential candidacies.
– President of all Peruvians –
The election campaign was also deeply polarizing, with often vehement public support on both sides of the political spectrum for the last two candidates.
“Castillo must position himself quickly as president of all Peruvians and not as president of half of Peruvians,” political scientist Jessica Smith told AFP.
Castillo has yet to appoint a cabinet.
On Monday, the president-elect received congratulations in a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken which “reinforced our shared commitment to promote inclusive economic prosperity”.
© 2021 AFP