Pedro Castillo assumes presidency of Peru on 200th anniversary of its independence

The professor receives the country with the highest coronavirus mortality per capita, with nearly 200,000 deaths, and an economy struggling to recover after contracting by 11.8% in 2020.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Pedro Castillo assumed this Wednesday, July 28, the presidency of Peru for the period 2021-2026 after taking the oath of office before the Congress of the Republic and receiving the symbolic presidential sash.

Castillo, attired in his traditional wide-brimmed straw hat and an indigenous motifs suit, received the symbols of State power from the hands of the president of the Parliament, Maria del Carmen Alva.

“I swear by God, by my family, by my Peruvian sisters and brothers, peasants, native peoples, ronderos, fishermen, teachers, professionals, children, youth, and women, that I will exercise the office of President of the Republic for the period 2021-2016. I swear for the peoples of Peru, for a country without corruption and for a new Constitution”, said the former rural school teacher.

Read also: Check out our coverage on Peru

The sober ceremony was attended by all the representatives of the branches of government and the full Congress, as well as close relatives of the president.

Also in attendance were guests such as the King of Spain, Felipe VI, and the presidents of Argentina, Alberto Fernández; Bolivia, Luis Arce; Chile, Sebastián Piñera; Colombia, Iván Duque; and Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso.

Pedro Castillo. (Photo internet reproduction)
Pedro Castillo. (Photo internet reproduction)

CRITICAL MOMENT

Castillo assumes the presidency at a critical moment for Peru, ravaged by the health and economic crisis unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic and in the midst of enormous polarization and political instability.

The president receives the country having the highest coronavirus mortality rate per capita, with nearly 200,000 deaths, and an economy struggling to recover after contracting by 11.8% in 2020.

The triumph of this 51-year-old rural teacher in the presidential elections, which were held in two rounds on April 11 and June 6, came as a surprise to many Peruvians and, above all, has been a blow to the established powers and the traditional politics of the Andean country.

Peru, which on this day also commemorates the 200th anniversary of its independence, has in Castillo for the first time a head of state coming from its Andean areas, alien to its political elites and power centers, which very uneasy about his sudden appearance on the scene.

It is expected that in the next hours, the new president, whose silence in recent weeks has been absolute, will announce his cabinet and confirm the first lines of action of his mandate.

During the campaign, Castillo was emphatic in pointing out the need for the Peruvian state to have a greater intervention in the economy, and insisted on promoting a Constituent Assembly to create a new Constitution, proposals that generate great controversy in the country.

The latest polls show that Castillo is viewed by Peruvians with a mixture of hope (34 %), uncertainty (29 %), confidence (16 %), and fear (15 %).

OPPOSITION HOSTILITY

Castillo takes office also with the certainty that he will not have a “honeymoon” relationship with his opponents, who since the night of June 6, when his victory over right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori began to be perceived, began to sow doubts about his legitimacy and his victory.

For weeks, Fujimori has denounced the existence of an election “fraud” committed by Castillo and his party, Peru Libre, but has presented no reliable evidence.

This “fraud” is considered non-existent by the Peruvian judicial system and the international community. Still, Castillo’s proclamation was delayed a month and a half because of more than a thousand ultimately unsuccessful lawsuits and legal appeals by Fujimori and her supporters.

Some sectors of the political and media right-wing even urged the Armed Forces to reject the president and leave the presidency of Peru in the hands of the president of Congress, which would constitute a coup d’état.

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