“I swear before God, in front of my family, the peasants, the indigenous peoples (…), the fishermen, the doctors, the children, the teenagers that I will exercise my office of President of the Republic”, declared the new president of the Republic. left in front of Parliament. “I swear to the people of Peru, for a country without corruption and for a new Constitution,” he added, wearing a black Andean costume and wearing his now famous white hat. He then received the two-tone scarf from the hands of the new President of Parliament, the centrist opponent Maria del Carmen Alva.
A rural schoolteacher who came out of anonymity four years ago when he led a strike of teachers, Pedro Castillo is the first Peruvian president without any link with the political, economic and cultural elites of the country. “This is the first time that this country will be ruled by a peasant”, he himself admitted during his inauguration speech. This political novice, elected under the colors of the radical left, was proclaimed winner on July 19 after a very close ballot against his opponent from the populist right, Keiko Fujimori.
Born in a village in the region of Cajamarca (north), this father of three is Catholic and his wife is evangelical. In the courtyard of their house in the hamlet of Chugur, sits an icon of Jesus Christ with the quote in English: “God is my shepherd”. Pedro Castillo has a habit of quoting passages from the Bible to justify his rejection of abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia. Next to his two-story brick house, he owns a one-hectare farm where he grows corn, sweet potatoes and vegetables. He raises chickens and cows.
“Break with colonial symbols”
Pedro Castillo was raised in the neighboring hamlet of Puña, where he worked in the fields with his parents. As a child, he had to walk several kilometers to get to school.
Throughout the presidential campaign, he emphasized his provincial roots, wearing in all circumstances the traditional white hat of the north of the country. He often arrived at his meetings on horseback.
He made himself known in 2017 by leading a national teachers’ strike that lasted more than two months to demand better salaries. He announced during the campaign that in case of victory, he would give up his presidential salary and continue to live on his salary from the National Education.
As soon as he took office on Wednesday, he said he wanted to transform the seat of government and the president’s residence, the Casa de Pizarro, into a museum, named after the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, victor of the Inca Empire. “I will not govern from Casa Pizarro because I think we must break with colonial symbols”, defended the new head of state, adding that the palace would be ceded to the Ministry of Culture to be there ” tell our story ”.
Beating a campaign with a giant pencil as a symbol to recall his past as a teacher and the importance he wants to give to education, he was able with simple messages to convince millions of Peruvians, especially in rural areas. .
“No more poor in a rich country”
His program is based on strengthening the health, education and agricultural sectors to, he says, improve the lot of the poorest Peruvians. “That there are no longer the poor in a rich country”, he insisted during his campaign.
Pedro Castillo is also in favor of regaining state control of the country’s energy and mineral wealth, such as gas, lithium, copper and gold. His party, Free Peru, claims to be Marxism-Leninism. It is also one of the few Peruvian parties that defend the regime of contested Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The new president, however, reaffirmed during his inauguration to exclude any “expropriation” and want an “orderly economy”, but asked for “a new pact with investors” in Peru. He also wants a new Constitution, accusing the current one of promoting the market economy too much.
He promised a million jobs in a year, public investments to revive the economy through infrastructure projects and public procurement with small businesses. He intends to curb imports which, according to him, “affect national industry and the peasantry”.
On Wednesday, he also promised that at the end of his mandate in 2026 he would return to his “long-standing profession, that of a teacher”.
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