After a two-long marathon – a 12-hour session on Thursday (26) and a 6-hour session on Friday (27) – the Peruvian Congress has approved the ministerial cabinet appointed by left-wing President Pedro Castillo.
The vote was a sort of first fire test for Castillo. Parliament granted confidence with 73 votes for and 50 against – 66 supports were needed. None of the members of Congress abstained.
The vote took place in a tense atmosphere, with pro and anti-government protesters staging protests outside the Legislative Palace in Lima since the day before. At times of heightened tension, the police had to intervene and dispersed the crowd with tear gas.
Castillo’s party, Perú Libre, has the largest congressional caucus, with 37 members, but does not have a majority. The second biggest legend is the right Ação Popular, with 24 seats. With approval, the government can act normally; if confidence was not granted, ministers would have to resign and the president would have to appoint a new team within 72 hours.
One of the points of tension was the most controversial figure in the cabinet, Prime Minister Guido Bellido Ugarte. Targeted by criticism, he is the subject of a trial for apologizing for terrorism and has already made statements in favor of the Sendero Luminoso guerrillas.
It was speculated that Bellido could resign the day before the vote, due to pressure from the opposition, who were also demanding the departure of three other ministers. Castillo did not give in and kept the names.
On Thursday morning, the Prime Minister presented the government’s program for more than three hours. By starting his speech in Quechua and Aymara, he was already creating friction. The President of the Chamber, María del Carmen Alva Prieto, of the opposition Popular Action party, interrupted him: “First of all, I would be grateful if you did not take so long in your presentation in Quechua.”
Bellido said he was “just greeting those present” and quickly switched to Castilian. The debate on languages was brought up again throughout the debate. According to Peruvian law, it is necessary for Parliament to have translators for the languages of indigenous peoples.
His intervention focused on the presentation of aid programs in the fields of health, education and work. Peru is one of the countries most affected by Covid-19 in the region, and Bellido has said one of the priorities will be to produce vaccines against the coronavirus in the country itself.
He then listed other plans to help vulnerable groups and stressed the priority of education. He said the Castillo government intends to carry out land reform. “It is not about expropriating land, but about providing quality services to the countryside, promoting cooperatives and expanding farmers’ access to national and international markets,” he said. .
Bellido was tough on security issues, promising “life imprisonment for the corrupt who steal the hope of children and their mothers,” but did not speak about diversity and gender issues. He also said that the president did not intend to copy models from other countries.
“Our main aspiration is to achieve major changes in the state and the economic structure.” The prime minister was applauded by his supporters, but the opposition viewed the discourse populist and with few details on how social programs would be funded.
There have been speeches of total rejection, like Javier Padilla, of Renovação Popular. “We cannot ignore the serious accusations that cloud this government. It is not a question of discrediting names, but of putting the right people in the right positions, according to their professional profile and with a moral and technical quality.”
Government officials such as Elizabeth Medina of Peru Libre replied: “Let’s speak from the heart, defend these dear people who have trusted us with their vote. Let’s bring what the people asked for. If we don’t listen to the people, let this Congress shut down. “.
It is not common for a cabinet to be dismissed at the first opportunity. In recent days, despite the pressure, there have been signs that the divided opposition will grant the president a truce.
During the ballot, some speeches pointed to a vote of confidence in a critical tone, such as that of Héctor Valer, of the center-left Somos Perú / Partido Morado coalition. “Although the Prime Minister did not detail how the promises he made to the country would be funded, I hope that the Minister of the Economy, Pedro Francke, can keep them and the cabinet can improve in the future. over time. “
Considered to have a conciliatory profile and close to the market, the economist Francke has Uruguay as a political and economic model, governed by the Frente Amplio from 2005 to 2020.
In Congress, the main opponents of the vote of confidence in Castillo were from the Fujimorista party, the Popular Force, and the second most numerous in Congress, the Popular Action, both right-wing. Support for the government came from members of Congress from Nuevo Perú (moderate left) and Morado (center), as well as from Free Peru itself.
Last Sunday, a survey by the Instituto de Estudos Peruanos indicated that 79% of citizens wanted a change of ministerial cabinet. Of these, 52% want a partial change and 27% a complete change. The same poll said 38% approved of the way Castillo acted and 46% disapproved – 16% didn’t want to give an opinion.