Peru: a novel of intrigue in the cabinet of Pedro Castillo

From Lima

The novel continues, and the crisis around the Minister of Labor, who has refused to resign after being asked by the chief of staff. A history of marches and countermarches, which began with the attacks of the parliamentary and media right against the minister, whom he accuses of having joined the Maoist armed group Sendero Luminoso in the eighties, and which has put on the table the internal tensions and divisions in the government and their problems when making decisions.

President Pedro Castillo has not ratified the request for the resignation of the chief of staff to his minister, but neither has he come out to support the Minister of Labor. In the facts, the presidential silence keeps Minister Iber Maraví in his post and is an implicit disavowal of the chief of staff, Guido Bellido. One reason for the president to keep the head of Labor would be not to give the image of giving in to the pressure from the right that demands his departure. Another reason would have to do with internal disputes in the government and with the fact that Maraví, a professor and trade unionist like Castillo, is very close to the president.

Questions from the right

The novel until now without end began last Monday when Bellido publicly announced that he had asked Maraví to resign and that he would leave office. It was his response to the questions of the right against the minister, whom they accused of being a “terrorist” based on a police report from forty years ago in which it is said that at that time he was a member of Sendero. Maraví, who was never sentenced on those charges, rejects the accusation. Bellido, who is also questioned by the right wing and the media, asked Maraví to resign three days after the opposition Congress gave him the vote of confidence, essential to stay in office. By handing over the head of the Minister of Labor, the chief of the cabinet hoped to satisfy the sector of the right that he gave him the vote of confidence and that he asks for the minister to leave, and to lower the tone of the attacks against him from the right wing that voted for denying him the confidence and the media.

The right not only wants to remove Maraví, its strategy is to overthrow the ministers “one by one”, as their most radical spokesmen have announced, part of a destabilizing plan that aims at the end of the line against the president. Only three weeks after taking office, due to pressure from the right Castillo removed his chancellor, the ex-guerrilla and sociologist Héctor Béjar, a well-known figure on the left. Béjar is not part of Peru Libre, but his departure as a concession to the right upset the ruling party. After that episode, seen as a sign of weakness of the government, the Executive does not want that in the case of the Minister of Labor that image of giving in quickly to the pressures of the political and media right is repeated.

Fights within the government

But behind this story there are not only the pressures from the right, but also the struggles within the government, in which the sector closest to Castillo coexists in tension, formed mainly by leaders of the teachers’ union like him; the sector of the ruling party, Peru Libre, headed by its controversial secretary general, Vladimir Cerrón, a former governor sentenced to suspended prison for economic mismanagement and investigated for other corruption charges; and by government allies who come from other leftist groups. Cerrón press for power spaces. This ministerial crisis occurs in the context of that arm wrestling between Castillo and Cerrón. While the Minister of Labor is part of the circle of teachers close to the president, the chief of staff, who asked him to resign, is part of the leadership of Peru Libre that responds to Cerrón.

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The general secretary of the ruling party publicly celebrated the announcement of Maraví’s departure, which he said consolidated the power of Bellido, his most important record in the government. But Castillo, without speaking publicly, imposed his power to keep his minister. Bellido’s attempt to remove Maraví came days after, according to journalistic versions cited by government sources, Castillo thought of removing him from the cabinet headquarters, but gave up after a tense conversation with Cerrón. With the move of publicly calling for the resignation of Maraví, which he launched without the green light of the president, Bellido, in addition to satisfying the right that questions him, sought to strengthen his position within the government and weaken the circle of teachers close to him. President. It was an attempt to consolidate in office, both against the opposition and within the Executive. But the bet went wrong. The resignation he announced did not materialize and he was left without a floor. He wanted to get stronger and ended up weakened.

“This ministerial crisis, which has been a comedy of errors, is a manifestation that there are two heads in the government, those of Castillo and Cerrón. By keeping the Minister of Labor, Castillo seeks to stop Cerrón’s advance in that war of positions between the two. I don’t think this situation can be sustained for long. For Castillo the scenario is very complicated, all exits imply loss and the hard right is seeing any opportunity to cause his dismissal. If he breaks with Cerrón and Perú Libre, he would lose the support of the ruling party in Congress. But I think he will have no other option but to break, it is impossible to govern while maintaining that duality, with Cerrón telling him what to do. By breaking with Cerrón, his only way out would be to move to the center to seek new allies. Castillo is favored by the fact that the right wing is divided and has its own internal problems, ”he told PageI12 the historian and political analyst Nelson Manrique, commenting on the scenario that opens in the government with this crisis.

Manrique believes that Castillo’s silence in this crisis and other important moments “is giving arms to the right wing, it contributes to destabilizing his government, it is alienating the support of those who voted for him, who feel that there is no government that makes resolutions, which is inexcusable at a time when we have the pandemic, economic crisis, unemployment ”. “Castillo avoids the press, does not give statements, because he does not have a clear direction, he does not have something clear to say,” he says.

Although Castillo stopped his announced departure, Maraví does not seem to have much time left in government. Congress is preparing to question him for the accusations of his alleged past militancy in Sendero, with the intention of censoring him, which would force him to leave office. Everything indicates that the opposition has the votes to achieve censorship.

In this scenario of ministerial crisis, opposition attacks against ministers and internal tensions in the government, it is not ruled out that together with the probable departure of the Minister of Labor, who if he does not fall before he would be forced to resign by Congress, other changes are added in the cabinet. Changes that could imply a recomposition of forces within the ruling party.

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