Castillo pushes ahead with his radical program

PERU - Forecast 17 Aug 2021 by Alfredo Thorne

After less than a month in office, President Pedro Castillo has offered few signs of softening his radical stance, in particular relation to economic policy. At his inauguration speech on July 28th, and the following day, with the appointment of his first Cabinet, he confounded the expectations of most political commentators by returning to his original Marxist-Leninist ideology, and appointing hardliners loyal to Perú Libre party President Vladimir Cerrón.

Castillo’s July 28th speech can be split into two parts. The first section focused on his promise to instill a radical change in economic policy, reaching out to Peru’s poor and underdeveloped regions. He repeated most of his campaign promises, such as increasing spending on education and healthcare to 10% of GDP, and emphasized the importance of public works, such as the construction of roads that will help Andean communities transport their produce to domestic and external markets. He also promised greater state involvement in the economy, particularly in relation to natural resources. The second section argued that the promised changes could not be instigated without amending the 1993 Constitution, and he called for the establishment of a Constitutional Assembly, a provision not included in the current Constitution.

Yet Castillo was careful to stress his commitment to working with Congress and said he would submit his proposal for a constitutional amendment, which requires two-thirds congressional approval to pass, to change Article 206 of the Constitution to allow a popular referendum on the establishment of a Constitutional Assembly. However, in describing the composition of the new Assembly, he contradicted himself, and indicated that members of this Assembly would not only be elected by universal vote, but would also be drawn from popular organizations, such as workers’ unions, and would include representatives of the Andean and Afro-Peruvian populations. In practice, this would entail enforcing a quota for these representative groups.

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