By Carla Samon Ros
Lima, Jul 29 (EFE).- On his first full day in office, President Pedro Castillo swore in a novice lawmaker from his leftist Peru Libre party as prime minister on Thursday at the site of the 1824 Battle of Ayacucho, a decisive engagement in the Andean nation’s war of independence.
The name of Guido Bellido did not figure in any of the speculation about who the new head of state would select to lead his Cabinet and represent the administration in negotiations with the deeply divided Congress.
Bellido, a 41-year-old engineer with a master’s degree in economics, was active in Peru Libre for several years before winning a seat in the legislature in the April 11 election.
Castillo introduced the premier during a symbolic second inauguration at the Pampas de Ayacucho Historic Sanctuary near the town of Quinua in the southern region of Ayacucho.
The choice of Bellido, a confidant of Peru Libre founder Vladimir Cerron, appears to signal the ascendancy of the orthodox wing of the avowedly socialist and Marxist party.
Castillo, a rural schoolteacher making his first bid for public office, came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the top two finishers in the first round of presidential voting.
After qualifying for the second round, he softened his rhetoric and sought to distance himself from the controversial Cerron, insisting that if he won the June 6 runoff, he would lead a government that was his and his alone.
Though the 37 Peru Libre lawmakers constitute the largest bloc in the 130-seat Congress, they will need to forge coalitions with other parties to implement Castillo’s program.
Bellido begins his premiership under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office for comments about Shining Path, the Maoist-inspired guerrilla group blamed for tens of thousands of deaths during their 1980-1992 offensive to remake Peru.
Prosecutors are weighing whether Bellido committed the offense of “apology for terrorism” when he resisted labeling Shining Path fighters as terrorists in statements captured on video.
In his speech Thursday to a large, supportive crowd, Castillo, 51, appealed to the “great unity” of the Peruvian people.
The ceremony began with the national anthem sung in Quechua, the country’s leading indigenous language, and continued with folkloric dances and the presentation to Castillo of an Inca-style staff known as a varayoc.
Joining Castillo for the event were the presidents of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez; Chile, Sebastian Piñera; and Bolivia, Luis Arce, as well as by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.
Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state, was also present. EFE