Peru's Castillo names Marxist party member as prime minister

Peru's new Prime Minister Guido Bellido (right) and Peruvian President Pedro Castillo greeting their supporters at Pampa de la Quinua in Ayacucho, southern Peru, on July 29, 2021. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO/PERUVIAN PRESIDENCY/ERNESTO ARIAS

LIMA (REUTERS) - Peruvian President Pedro Castillo on Thursday (July 29) named Guido Bellido, a member of his Marxist party, as prime minister, a move which dimmed hopes of a moderate left administration and will face an uphill confirmation battle in Congress.

Bellido, a congressman, is a member of the self-described Marxist-Leninist Free Peru party, with which Castillo won the presidency this year in the Andean nation.

His appointment underscores the sway that far-left Free Peru will have in Castillo's administration, which is set to last until 2026.

Castillo had recently tried to strike a moderate tone on economic issues - even as party members doubled down on far-left messaging - but naming Bellido is likely to further spook investors who hoped the president would look beyond his party for political direction. Peru is the world's No. 2 copper producer.

Bellido's naming led Castillo's most prominent economic adviser, Pedro Francke, to decline the Finance Ministry job, local dailies El Comercio and La Republica reported Thursday night. Francke did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Francke, an economics professor, is a moderate leftist and had worked vehemently to try to calm investors fearful of a Castillo presidency.

Still, Bellido and the rest of the Cabinet will need confirmation by the opposition-led Congress, where Bellido's leftist position is set to face stiff resistance. A majority of Congress votes are held by center and rightwing parties.

Bellido's swearing-in was held in the Southern Andean city of Ayacucho, where Castillo, the son of Andean peasant farmers, won by a landslide.

Bellido, 42, a native of the nearby Andean region of Cuzco, spoke in the indigenous Quechua language as part of his swearing in. He is little known in Lima-centric political circles and has a masters in economics, most recently working for Peru's government statistics agency INEI.

In an interview with local media in April, Bellido defended members of the Shining Path, a Maoist rebel group that killed tens of thousands of Peruvians in the 1980s and 1990s in an attempt to take power.

Peru's stock exchange and sol currency have plummeted since Castillo became a likely winner of the election.

The Free Peru Party is led by Vladimir Cerron, a neurosurgeon and Marxist who is an admirer of the governments of Cuba and Venezuela. Cerron was unable to run for the presidency or take a Cabinet role due to past corruption charges.

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