Peru’s foreign minister resigns in setback for new leader Castillo

Peru's presidential candidate Pedro Castillo of Peru Libre party, who will compete head-to-head with right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori in a second-round ballot in June, arrives at the party headquarters in Lima, Peru

Peru’s foreign minister resigned on Tuesday amid outrage over remarks he made before taking office about a rebel group that killed tens of thousands of people, making him the first Cabinet member to fall under leftist President Pedro Castillo.

Hector Bejar, 85, who in his youth participated in a socialist guerrilla movement, had said he believed the Shining Path rebel group had emerged in part because of backing from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

About 70,000 people are estimated to have been killed as government forces battled the Maoist Shining Path in the 1980s and early 1990s in large swaths of the country.

“I’m convinced, although I can’t prove it, that the Shining Path was in large part created by the CIA and (other) intelligence services,” Bejar said in a video dated last year, which was broadcast by news show Panorama on Sunday.

The release of the video triggered condemnation, including protests demanding his resignation. Bejar has a Ph.D. in sociology and has worked as a university professor.

The foreign minister’s departure is likely to add more political uncertainty to an administration already navigating a highly volatile and polarized first few weeks that saw the country’s sol currency fall to record lows against the dollar.

Castillo, a member of a Marxist-Leninist party, has come under fire for naming a Cabinet that critics say is filled with fringe and inexperienced ministers. His backers say the Cabinet represents Peru’s marginalized masses.

Castillo will need to appoint a new foreign minister before the end of the month, when the opposition-led Congress will vote whether to accept or reject the Cabinet.

Castillo is scheduled to govern Peru until 2026, although political turmoil has been so high in recent years that he is the country’s fifth president in five years.

Bejar’s naming had sparked questions about whether Peru would leave the so-called Lima Group of nations, created to oppose the presidency of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, and whether the country would cease to be a U.S. ally.

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