The alliance between President Pedro Castillo and the founder of the leftist Free Peru formation, Vladimir Cerrón, formally ended on Thursday, although the distance between them was marked at least a month ago. Then the head of the party asked the former teacher leader to resign from militancy, to which he was invited at the end of 2020 to be a presidential candidate. It happened after months of disagreements, which began last October and, as a consequence, the head of state lost 16 votes of support in a possible new parliamentary debate to remove him, which the opposition in Congress has already tried twice.
Castillo was recruited at the end of 2020 by Cerrón, a neurosurgeon and orthodox leftist politician who proposed him to be the candidate of Peru Libre because he was prevented from doing so, as a result of a conviction for corruption that disqualified him politically. When the former rural teacher won the elections, he did so with the support of the moderate left, which at that time was led by former presidential candidate Verónika Mendoza: for this he had to commit to campaigning to respect the inter-American justice system and the rights of the LGTBI population. . This alliance forced Castillo to qualify the populist discourse of the left – and socially conservative – of Free Peru. Since then, the politician has not been able to achieve a balance in the face of such opposing commitments.
But another factor was added to this. Cerrón demanded spaces for his own in the cabinet, and motions to remove Castillo from office by virtue of the figure of vacancy due to permanent moral incapacity became frequent in Congress. Therefore, the president began to appoint politicians from other benches as ministers to ensure that those who promoted his departure did not reach the necessary 87 votes.
At the end of May, Cerrón met with the head of state at the Government Palace and asked him to leave the party. Days before, ten congressmen from Peru Libre – those closest to Castillo – resigned from that formation and formed the Magisterial Bloc. Cerrón’s caucus had 37 congressmen at the beginning of the mandate and currently only 16 remain. Another group of perulibristas had split between December and January of this year and formed another parliamentary caucus, called Democratic Peru.
Cerrón had already resented Castillo in October, when he replaced one of his trusted men, Guido Bellido, as prime minister and appointed a moderate left-wing lawyer, Mirtha Vásquez. Peruvian analysts interpret Cerrón’s public break with Castillo as an attempt to assert what remains of his power -16 votes- at a difficult situation for both. The founder of Peru Libre faces a tax investigation for money laundering -for the financing of electoral campaigns-, while the head of state is investigated for influence peddling -having interfered in military promotions in 2021- and for organized crime and corruption in the bidding for a million-dollar public work.
The letter from the political committee of Peru Libre, which Cerrón tweeted on Wednesday, asked Castillo to resign from the party for having promoted “the breakdown of party unity and the fracture of the congressional caucus.” In addition, he questioned that the government’s policies did not agree “with what was promised in the electoral campaign, and less with the program and ideology of the party, implementing the losing neoliberal program.” The president sent a letter – dated Wednesday – to the National Elections Jury announcing his resignation from militancy, but he made it public on Thursday afternoon.
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Castillo became president by offering a constituent assembly and an eventual new constitution. However, a few months after taking office as head of state, he abandoned that promise, strongly questioned by the parliamentary opposition and the economic elite.
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