A rural schoolteacher who has never held public office has been sworn in that Peru’s new president promised to rule “with the people and for the people ”in a ceremony imbued with historical symbolism of Peru two hundred years of independence from Spain.
In his typical broad straw hat, Pedro Castillo promised to make extensive changes in the country in his introductory speech, paying tribute to Peru’s indigenous peoples and teachers and promising to fight corruption, curb monopoly and increase public spending on education and health.
The symbolic significance of the event was not lost on Castillo, the son of peasants who never learned to read or write. “This land is founded on the sweat of my ancestors. The story of this silent Peru is also my story, ”he said.
But the 51-year-old trade union leader faces enormous challenges as Peru fights for the world’s deadliest Covid-19 outbreak, and he struggles with tensions within his left-wing Perú Libre party and faces weak congressional support in a divided nation.
Two hundred years since Peru ceased to be a Spanish colony, Castillo said it was Spain’s colonization that created the “caste system” that sowed differences between Peruvians when Spanish King Felipe VI sat in the audience.
“The three centuries in which this area belonged to the Spanish crown enabled them to exploit the minerals that sustained Europe’s development, to a large extent with the work of many of our grandparents,” he pointed out.
In a very symbolic gesture, he said he would not rule from the capital’s presidential palace, known as the “House of Pizarro” after the leader of the Spanish conquest of Peru, Francisco Pizarro, who founded Lima in 1535.
We will give up this palace to the Ministry of Culture so that it can be used to show our history from its origins to the present day, ”he said.
He said his first priority as president would be to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 196,000 Peruvians and left one in 100 children orphaned, according to a study by Lancet.
The teacher with 25 years of experience declared a state of emergency in public education and promised to increase his budget. He promised to set up a Ministry of Science and Technology and rename the Ministry of Culture as the Ministry of Cultures to reflect the many indigenous peoples of Peru.
Despite his promise to make radical changes, there is still long-standing uncertainty about the composition of his government. Castillo has postponed the appointment of his cabinet to Friday, which was to be announced Wednesday. He is expected to announce his prime minister on Thursday on a trip to the Andean region of Ayacucho.
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