SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 9 February 2023, Thursday |

Peru’s Congress pushes Cabinet confirmation vote to Friday, extending uncertainty

Peru’s Congress postponed a key vote on whether to ratify or reject President Pedro Castillo’s new leftist Cabinet on Thursday, adding to the uncertainty in a country where executive-legislative feuds are common.

Castillo, who entered office only a month ago, is Peru’s fifth president in five years as a result of the tensions, which have included many impeachment procedures against former presidents. The confidence vote is a crucial test for his fledgling presidency.

Prime Minister Guido Bellido had earlier in the day requested Congress for a “yes” vote and described measures to get Peru out of “one of the most serious political, social, environmental, and health crises in recent decades.”

Bellido began his address in Quechua, Peru’s most widely spoken indigenous language, prompting the leader of the legislature to request that he speak in Spanish because she couldn’t hear him.

Castillo won a bitterly contested election this year, defeating his opponent by 0.25 percentage point. In quechua-speaking areas of the country, however, he received overwhelming support.

Lawmakers publicly debated throughout the afternoon, although it was not possible in many cases to know which way they would vote. It is still unclear whether the Cabinet will be confirmed or not.

Castillo belongs to the Marxist-Leninist Free Peru party, which is allied to a more moderate leftist group in Congress. But put together they hold only a third of all votes. They need a simple majority for confirmation.

In the not unlikely event that the Cabinet is rejected by the center-right coalition that runs Peru’s Congress, Castillo will have to present a new Cabinet led by a new prime minister. But if Congress rejects this second Cabinet as well, Castillo would have the option to close Congress instead, while keeping his Cabinet in place.

“I wish to ratify the commitment of President Castillo to develop public policies and actions that herald a new stage in the life of the country where peace, democracy and equal opportunities for all prevail,” said Bellido, promising “important changes in economic and state structures.”

As Bellido spoke, dozens of people demonstrated outside both in favor of and against Castillo’s Cabinet, in a sign of the country’s persistent political divide.

POLICY ANNOUNCEMENTS

Bellido offered several policy announcements in his speech, including that Peru will step up efforts to purchase COVID-19 vaccines and asked for legislative powers for the executive on tax matters.

He said the government intends to tap the excess profits of mining companies at times of high international prices of raw materials. Peru is the world’s second-largest copper producer and mining is the engine of the Andean country’s economy.

Among projects the government would push, he added, was a railway running from the Andes to the Pacific to carry passengers and mining goods, to be funded through a public-private alliance with international partners.

Bellido, who is also Cabinet chief, addressed Congress amid calls for his resignation and those of other members of the government who belong to the Peru Libre party, which brought Castillo to power.

He faces an investigation into an alleged “apology for terrorism” over old Facebook posts in which he appeared to defend a former rebel from the Shining Path Maoist group. Bellido denies the accusation and no charges have been filed.

Government sources had suggested that Castillo would seek to reshuffle his Cabinet in a bid to stave off its rejection by Congress, but in the end no changes were made.

    Source:
  • Reuters