Peru's President Pedro Castillo Terrones has suffered his first ministerial reshuffle Wednesday following the resignation of Prime Minister Guido Bellido.
Just hours after announcing Peru's Second Agrarian Reform, Castillo needed to appear before Congress to announce that “today we accept the resignation of the president of the Council of Ministers Guido Bellido Ugarte, whom I thank for the services rendered.
Castillo said he had decided to make some decisions in favour of governability and onsisted on his plea to economic, political and social sectors for broader unity to achieve common goals, such as the reactivation of the Peruvian economy. It's a time to put Peru above all ideology and party positions.
Bellido made it clear that he had left the government at Castillo's request. We don't know what the reasons were. Today the president asked me to submit my resignation letter, and I immediately complied with that request.
The now former prime minister also said Castillo makes the decision according to his political criteria.
We didn't have any discrepancies with the president. Yesterday we were debating different issues, Bellido added.
Bellido will be succeded by Mirtha Vásquez, a former Congress Speaker and a native of Cajamarca, Castillo's home region, she is a lawyer specializing in human rights and was even slated to fill the post of interim president amid a recent political crisis.
She was sworn in as prime minister at a ceremony in which six other changes to the cabinet were announced: Education, Interior, Culture, Labor, Production and Mines and Energy portfolios will have new holders.
One of them was Economy Minister Pedro Francke. Despite having been the coordinator of Castillo's campaign in the area, he never pleased the radical wing of the Perú Libre Party, whose leader Vladimir Cerrón views as an ousider and calls him the caviar left.
Regarded as the moderate name of the cabinet, Francke defends that the country follow a center-left economic model, in the style of the Uruguayan Broad Front implemented when it was in power. He has already repeated that, under Castillo, there would be a clear separation between the government and the administration of Peru Libre.
Also staying onboard is Foreign Minister Oscar Maúrtua, with whom Bellido had attrition because of the latter's relationship with Venezuela. Castillo's government has been avoiding expressing open support for Nicolás Maduro and leaving the Lima Group.
Castillo's administration already goes through low approval ratings despite having taken office just July 28. Bellido had been criticized since his appointment and is even facing a lawsuit for apology for terrorism for his statements if favor of the late Sendero Luminoso leader Abimael Guzmán, who died last month aged 86 in jail, where he was serving a life sentence for terrorism.
Bellido is also involved in a case known as Dynamics of the Center, together with Perú Libre leader Vladimir Cerrón, consisting of the alleged laundering of money from when Cerrón was governor of Junín.
The 2019 indictment targets the Transport departmentes from the Peruvian province, from where, according to the Attorney's Office, money would have been diverted to Castillo's presidential campaign.
The president of the Congress, opponent María del Carmen Alva, expressed her satisfaction at the resignation of the prime minister. “After several days of unnecessary uncertainty and questioned ministers, we welcome President Castillo's decision to change his ministerial cabinet,” she wrote on social media. Congress has the greatest disposition for dialogue and governance.
The fact that the move removed a name more to the left from a key government post, however, displeased the Peru Libre leadership. At the end of the swearing-in ceremony, party spokesman and Vladimir Cerrón's brother, Waldemar, stated that the party will not support the new ministerial cabinet and that there has been a betrayal of those who have been elected to represent the people.”
Bellido will now return to Congress as a lawmaker elected on behalf of Peru Libre, which has 37 seats which do not represent a majority. The now former prime minister belong to the most radical wing of the Marxist-Leninist acronym that came to the Peruvian presidency in a surprising way. In a tight second round, Castillo beat right-wing Keiko Fujimori with 50.12% of the valid votes.
Three weeks into his presidency, Castillo had already been granted with the dubious honor of being the leader with less popular approval at the beginning of his term in the last 20 years, according to an Ipsos survey published by the Lima newspaper El Comercio, which showed the rural teacher had 38% acceptance and 45% rejection.