Peru’s Foreign Affairs Minister Resigns in Blow to Castillo
(Bloomberg) -- The three-week-old administration of Peru’s President Pedro Castillo lost one of its most controversial figures on Tuesday after the foreign affairs minister quit, denounced for spreading wild conspiracy theories.
The minister, Hector Bejar, resigned after local media published a video filmed before he took office in which he said the Peruvian navy and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency were behind terrorist atrocities in the country in past decades. Castillo accepted his resignation.
Castillo, from the socialist Peru Libre party, shocked investors with some of the people he appointed to his cabinet, and many Peruvians regarded Bejar, an ex-guerrilla who praised the communist government of Cuba, as unsuitable for the role.
Peru’s congress has a lot of power to censure ministers, especially when the chamber is led by the government’s opponents, as it is now.
“Very probably we’re going to see a parade of ministers being questioned by congress,” said Farid Kahhat, a foreign affairs specialist who teaches at the Catholic University in Lima. “It was obvious that the first to go was going to being Bejar, but it’s clear that he won’t be the last.”
His replacement hasn’t yet been named.
Castillo’s choice of prime minister, Guido Bellido, also worried some Peruvians. He is under investigation for being an alleged apologist for terrorists and says he considers Cuba to be a democracy. Some of the most controversial cabinet members, including Bejar and Bellido, are close to Vladimir Cerron, the Marxist neurosurgeon who leads Castillo’s party.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday that Bejar’s comments were made at a time when the outgoing minister did not hold any public office, and that they have been manipulated, edited, and taken out of context.
Many of the new ministers lack experience or qualifications for their new responsibilities which will include trying to oversee a recovery after Peru suffered one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks and economic slumps in the world last year.
The sol and local bonds had already stopped trading for the day when the announcement came. The sol is the world’s worst-performing currency since Castillo took office last month. Bejar’s departure could be beneficial for investor sentiment, said Juan Prada, a currency strategist at Barclays in New York.
“Maybe at the margin it is positive, because the foreign minister was part of the more ideological wing of the government, but it’s also about whoever replaces him,” Prada said, in reply to written questions.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.