Peru's Castillo names far-left PM; no finance minister in cabinet

FILE PHOTO: Inauguration Day of President-elect Pedro Castillo in Lima
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By Marco Aquino and Marcelo Rochabrun

LIMA (Reuters) -Peruvian President Pedro Castillo named Guido Bellido, a member of his Marxist party, as prime minister on Thursday, dimming hopes of a moderate administration, and swore in most of his cabinet, but did not name a finance minister.

The lack of an economy czar is likely to create uncertainty in Peruvian markets about the future of Castillo's administration, who as a candidate campaigning for a self-described Marxist-Leninist party had already spooked investors.

Castillo had scheduled the swearing in of his full cabinet for Thursday evening, but started the event over two hours late.

The favorite for the finance job, moderate leftwing economist Pedro Francke, left the ceremony's venue just minutes before it started, sparking questions over whether he had rejected or lost the job at the last minute.

Prime minister Bellido, a congressman, is a member of the Free Peru party, with which Castillo won the presidency this year.

His appointment underscored the sway that far-left Free Peru will have in Castillo's administration, which began only on Wednesday and 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 - largely by relying on Francke as his economics spokesman.

But late on Thursday it remained unclear what direction he would now pursue for the economy, one of Latin America's most stable, but which has suffered in recent years because of political turmoil that is likely to continue.

Castillo also named Ivan Merino as energy and mines minister, a little-known mining specialist who is close to Free Peru, according to local news site IDL-Reporteros.

CONFIRMATION CHALLENGE

Still, Bellido and the rest of the cabinet will need confirmation by the opposition-led Congress, where Bellido's appointment in particular is set to face stiff resistance. A majority of Congress votes are held by center and right-wing parties.

Bellido, 42, a native of the nearby 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. Peruvian markets were closed on Thursday due to a national holiday but analysts expect them to fall on Friday due to the perception of increased instability.

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.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; editing by Diane Craft, Nick Macfie, Leslie Adler and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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