[WSMDiscuss] (Fwd) Limits of left reformism in Peru, as Pedro Castillo's government plunges deeper into crisis

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sat Apr 30 06:50:33 CET 2022

*Peru’s ruling party turns on Castillo; calls for president to step down 
in 2023*

Marcelo Rochabrun. Reuters. April 28, 2022

LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian lawmakers from the ruling Peru Libre party on 
Thursday presented a bill to cut President Pedro Castillo’s presidential 
term from five to two years, with general elections set for 2023, an 
unprecedented setback from within his own ranks.

Castillo, a leftist former school teacher and union leader, has presided 
over unprecedented political instability since taking office last July, 
cycling through four separate cabinets and surviving two impeachment 
attempts in just nine months in office.

More than 60% of Peruvians want him to resign and call general 
elections, according to polls. Both the Presidential and Congressional 
terms are supposed to end simultaneously in July 2026.

Under the proposal – which was signed by lawmakers including Waldemar 
Cerron, the brother of Peru Libre President Vladimir Cerron – Castillo 
and Congress would end both their terms in July 2023.

“Given that the disapproval of the President and Congress are both high 
and rising, one way to exit this institutional and political crisis is … 
by calling for new general elections,” the bill says. Peru Libre 
describes itself as a Marxist-Leninist party.

The bill was signed by eight Peru Libre lawmwakers out of a bloc of 33 
lawmakers. Peru’s unicameral Congress has 130 lawmakers.

Castillo has yet to address the bill, which comes as he is facing 
controversy yet again with a proposal to redraft the country’s 
Constitution, a campaign promise he had said he would not act on.

Still, even current officials have hinted that cutting down Castillo’s 
term would be a prudent decision. Prime Minister Anibal Torres said 
earlier this year that the government itself had considered presenting a 
bill to call for early elections, although the idea was dismissed.

Under Castillo, Peru’s sol currency fell to record lows, although it has 
since bounced back. Business confidence has also fallen amid occasional 
far-left gestures such as calling for nationalizing the country’s gas 

**Perú: The Broken Dream of Transformative Government?*
Alejandra Dinegro Martínez. NACLA. April 28, 2022

Eight months in, the administration of Pedro Castillo, whose victory in 
the 2021 elections was once a symbol of transformation and hope, is now 
closer to a nightmare. The dream of a government that could have laid 
the foundation for a process of structural transformation seems 
unattainable. This is a severe blow to the Left, just as it is for 
voters who share the current president’s background, habits, cultural 
practices, and common struggles.

As I have previously stated, the electoral process that led Keiko 
Fujimori, leader of the controversial Fujimorista party (Fuerza 
Popular), and Pedro Castillo, candidate for the controversial Perú Libre 
party, to the second round showed the urgent need to address the 
historic and longstanding demands of campesinos, farmers, teachers, 
workers, and Indigenous communities.

It also showed that, after all these months, a sector of the opposition 
with conservative, anti-democratic leanings, and a tendency to 
sympathize with fascist attitudes, has only been able to present 
Congress with two unsuccessful motions to remove the president. 
Moreover, in just four months of existence, the structure of the 
Investigative Commission for alleged electoral fraud has only resulted 
in the unnecessary and costly expense of 150,000 soles (a little more 
than $40,000). This has earned Congress a disapproval rating of 79 percent.

The opposition insists on removing the president as a means of political 
control The opposition insists on removing the president as a means of 
political control with the intention of ignoring the formality of 
democratic elections, thus adopting a pro-coup stance rather than a 
non-conciliatory or proactive one.

There were initially concerns over Pedro Castillo’s first incomplete 
cabinet, which was led by Prime Minister Guido Bellido, a member of 
Congress affiliated with the ruling party. The Ministry of Economy and 
Finance and the Ministry of Justice were sworn in one day after the 
official ceremony. Prime Minister Bellido was mired in controversy 
related to homophobic, machista, and undemocratic remarks he had posted 
to his social media—in addition to his being a confidant of the General 
Secretary of Perú Libre, Vladimir Cerrón.

President Castillo stood among the main ministries (Economics and 
Finance, Health, Women, Foreign Relations, Agriculture, and Foreign 
Commerce) and representatives of his leftist political allies who joined 
him in support for the runoff election, mainly from the political groups 
Nuevo Perú and Juntos por el Perú. Implementing the Plan Bicentenario in 
the first 100 days of his administration was his message to the nation. 
More than a document, it was a sign of commitment that recognized the 
contributions of independent professional experts.

The plan attempts to address immediate issues threatening the country: 
health, education, work, and the economy. However, the first 100 days 
were marked by mistakes and weak reforms. The confrontational style of 
Prime Minister Bellido caused the dollar exchange rate to increase, 
depreciating the national currency, which the opposition took advantage of.

In early October 2021, the president requested the resignation of his 
prime minister, which provoked another political crisis, this time 
within the political party that brought him to the government palace. 
The leader of Peru Libre continues to focus on the ongoing persecution 
of those who he considers part of the “caviares” (elite) sector, thus 
reinforcing a pejorative that is also used by his detractors. Pure nonsense.

Also within the scope of government shortcomings, in the first 100 days 
Castillo has had to swap out nine ministers and reorganize his cabinet 
twice. The changes took place in the midst of a potential rupture 
between a sector strongly linked to the leader of Peru Libre. No public 
initiative can sustain itself with so many changes.

In terms of management and public policy, the main actions were: 
renegotiating the Camisea Gas contract; the “Yanapay” economic stimulus 
payment targeting 13 million people; increasing vaccination rates from 
15 to 60 percent of the population; launching the Second Agrarian 
Reform; paying the social debt owed to teachers; revoking temporary 
layoffs that affected thousands of workers; creating a national program 
for women entrepreneurs; passing a law for orphaned children; and a new 
precautionary focus on addressing social conflicts with a multifaceted 

As a result of the cabinet restructuring, Mirtha Vásquez became prime 
minister. A lawyer who is also from Cajamarca, Vásquez was known for her 
role as President of the Congress and a career in defense of 
environmental and peasant rights. Now seemingly more open to dialogue, 
the government appeared to take shape.

This new cabinet ended up with five women instead of just two. However, 
the Perú Libre bloc interpreted this change as a “betrayal” and 
expressed public opposition. Congress affirmed the cabinet with just 68 
votes in favor and 19 protest votes from the Perú Libre bloc. 
Paradoxically, Peru Libre hasn’t had any problems voting with the same 
opposition blocs that ask for the President’s resignation on higher 
education reform, sexual and reproductive rights, and electoral reform.

On January 31, 2022, four months after her nomination, Prime Minister 
Vásquez presented her letter of resignation. Among her reasons, she 
singled out the impossibility of achieving consensus to benefit the 
country. She also underscored several potential acts of corruption 
committed by high level officials. The cabinet’s internal crisis 
worsened with the exit of Interior Minister and prosecutor Avelino 
Guillén, who requested a new director for Peru’s National Police. The 
president simply did not back him.

Government mismanagement worsened and the tools to confront them seem to 
be political privilege and a war declared on meritocracy and aptitude in 
public service. On April 2, a new chief of staff was sworn in, only to 
be forced to resign 72 hours later after it became public that he had 
been accused of domestic violence against his late wife and daughter.

Citizen mobilizations then began in response to unfulfilled campaign 
promises and appointments that did not represent demands for change. The 
president was being put on notice.

After that shameful appointment, a fourth prime minister was named: the 
then Minister of Justice Aníbal Torres, also from Cajamarca. The new 
cabinet was under a magnifying glass. Castillo backed off again in the 
presence of women appointees and the door was opened to ministers with 
close ties to the Secretary General of Peru Libre, in addition to 
lacking qualifications. His political ally, Nuevo Perú, was left out.

The government once again adopted a defensive attitude without carrying 
out the promised changes. This cabinet represented a recomposition of 
forces and political alliances that would make it possible to face any 
attempt to vacate or censor ministers. The government once again adopted 
a defensive attitude without carrying out the promised changes. Congress 
did not take long to censor the Minister of Health (linked to Peru 
Libre), a doctor seriously questioned for his professional capacity. 
Meanwhile, a new minister has yet to swear in.

Finally, cargo transport unions began an indefinite strike on March 28 
in Junín, Arequipa, Cusco, Puno, Áncash, Piura, Apurímac, and Ayacucho 
mainly. Their main demands were dialogue with central government 
authorities regarding rising fuel prices, toll payments, and rising 
prices of staple foods. On the sixth day, the first regional protest 
broke out in Junín, putting pressure on the Pedro Castillo government. 
This time, it wasn’t just the transportation unions, but farmers who 
demanded subsidies in the face of rising fertilizer costs. Everyone 
demanded the president show up.

The transportation union has given the government five days to start 
fulfilling their demands. Five deaths and dozens of injuries have been 
reported. On April 7, the president participated in a remote session in 
Junín with his cabinet of ministers. As a consequence, a bill was 
announced to reduce and exempt taxes for fuels and certain foods, 
respectively. The salaries of the president and ministers were also 
reduced and the minimum wage was increased.

In the midst of firings and the replacement of qualified public 
officials with military officials and sympathizers, a new stage of 
crisis has arisen that could be an opportunity for President Castillo to 
push forward fundamental changes involving the civic sector—unlike 
previous governments that have led Peru to the current crisis. Will 
there be enough support now?

Alejandra Dinegro Martínez is a sociologist at the Universidad Nacional 
Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM), with a masters in social policy. She is a 
columnist and analyst with experience in public management and former 
National Youth Secretary.

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