Peru's first indigenous president takes office amid challenges and controversy
President Castillo's victory is overshadowed by a divided nation mired in economic recession
PERU. Lima: President-elect Pedro Castillo, a former school teacher and union boss, was sworn into office on Wednesday at the Peruvian National Congress in Lima. While much of the nation celebrates the historic first presidency, it is also eclipsed by cultural and economic obstacles.
A victory that was immediately contested
Castillo emerged as the victor in a democratic election against right-wing political rival, Keiko Fujimori, in a second round of voting that took place in June. The results were immediately contested by Fujimori and her supporters, who claimed there were "irregularities" in the voting process. An investigation was launched by the National Elections Jury (JNE), which concluded last week after no evidence of fraud or infractions were found.
Despite this, opposition remains against firm against Castillo, who has been decried by Fujimori's supporters as the Peruvian Evo Morales, referring to the former left-wing Bolivian president that was ousted in a civilian-led coup in 2019. Right-leaning political sympathizers point to the dire state of Argentina and Venezuela's famously struggling socialist economies, fearing Castillo's policies may lead Peru down a similar road.
Is a "popular market economy" on the horizon?
Peu's economy shrank 11.6% in 2020 due to coronavirus-related restrictions, triggering one of the worst economic recessions in recent history. Castillo's response to the economic crisis is something he calls a "popular market economy." This includes protectionist measures for agriculture and clothing manufacturers, along with increased taxes in the mining sector. There has also been discussion of a second agrarian reform to improve working conditions in the countryside.
The changes proposed by Castillo have been criticized by critics and economists who claim that in the long run, this could lead to market instability and a lack of competitiveness.
Oscar Chavez, head of the Institute of Economy and Business Development of the Lima Chamber of Commerce (CCL), said Castillo's proposed measures have been tried before. Chavez stated, "The results of what happened in the Peruvian economy in the 80s made us see that it was impossible to continue sustaining protectionism."
Although Castillo is the fifth president to hold office in the politically troubled nation in less than five years, Peru eagerly awaits Castillo's first moves and a political efficacy that will be proven in the days and months ahead.