LIMA, Peru — Peru’s newest president, Dina Boluarte, swore in a new Cabinet Saturday just three days after becoming the country’s first female head of state, and asked each minister to pledge not to be corrupt while in office.
The 16 ministers picked by Boluarte, who on Wednesday was elevated from vice president to replace the ousted Pedro Castillo as the country’s leader, will be key to further inflaming or calming a South American country experiencing a seemingly endemic political crisis.
Boluarte presented her government amid demonstrations across Peru calling for her resignation and the scheduling of general elections to replace her and Congress.
Boluarte on Saturday asked each of the eight men and eight women to swear or promise to perform their duties “loyally and faithfully without committing acts of corruption.”
Fluent in Spanish and Quechua, Boluarte was elected as vice president on the presidential ticket that brought the center-left Castillo to power last year. She was minister of development and social inclusion during the 17-month administration of Castillo, a rural schoolteacher with no previous political experience.
Boluarte, 60, replaced Castillo after he stunned the country by ordering the dissolution of Congress, which in turn dismissed him for “permanent moral incapacity.” He was arrested on charges of rebellion. His failed move against the opposition-led Congress came hours before lawmakers were set to start a third impeachment attempt against him.
Castillo cycled through more than 70 Cabinet members during his administration. Some of them have been accused of wrongdoing.
Boluarte has said she should be allowed to hold the office for the remaining 3 1/2 years of his term. But protesters are demanding new elections. Some of those demonstrating in favor of Castillo have called her a “traitor.”
On Saturday, several highways were still blocked by protesters calling for the closure of Congress, the resignation of Boluarte and new elections.
“Congress has given us a kick and has mocked the popular vote,” said protester Mauro Sánchez in Lima, where police have used tear gas to end demonstrations that began Wednesday. “Let’s take to the streets, let’s not let ourselves be governed by this mafia-like congress.”
Peru has had six presidents in the last six years, including three in a single week in 2020 when Congress flexed its impeachment powers.
The power struggle in the country has continued as the Andes and its thousands of small farms struggle to survive the worst drought in a half-century. Without rain, farmers can’t plant potatoes, and the dying grass can no longer sustain herds of sheep, alpacas, vicuñas and llamas.
The government also confirmed that in the past week, Peru has seen a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections. The country has recorded about 4.3 million infections and 217,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
Boluarte lacks support in Congress. Like Castillo, she was kicked out in January of the far-left party with which the pair was elected as president and vice president.
Omar Coronel, political science professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, said an important variable for Boluarte’s government will be her ability to manage the waves of discontent and generate a coalition in Congress that can sustain her but that at the same time “is not aberrational for the left.”
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