Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso met Wednesday morning with new Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, hours before Castillo’s inauguration, saying he looked forward to working with the new government in Lima. Castillo said he wanted to meet first with Lasso to get advice about “how to be a new president.”
The presidencies of Peru and Ecuador are the first elected positions for both Castillo and Lasso. Castillo, the son of illiterate Andean farmers, ran and lost in a mayoral election in 2016 while Lasso lost presidential races in 2013 and 2017 before winning this year.
Castillo said the brief meeting with Lasso was “friendly and fruitful” and thanked Lasso for his encouragement. “He even gave me his phone number,” Castillo said about Lasso’s offer of advice and cooperation.
“Ecuador and Peru share much more than a border and common culture,” Lasso said following the meeting. “We agreed to strengthen our relations and work on common issues through a framework of cooperation.”
Before and after Castillo’s inauguration, Lasso also met with Alberto Fernández, Luis Arce, Sebastián Piñera and Iván Duque, presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia.
In his inaugural speech, Castillo, elected as a socialist by a razor-thin margin over conservative Keiko Fujimori, promised to work to correct social and wealth inequities within Peruvian culture. “The Colonial era divisions that have separated the classes and races in Peru still remain and I will begin the process of tearing them down,” he said. “This is the first time this country will be governed by a peasant,” Castillo said. “I will not forget my heritage and my people.”
“The three centuries in which this territory belonged to the Spanish crown, they exploited the minerals and agriculture that sustained the development of Europe, to a large extent with the labor of our grandparents,” he told his inaugural audience, which included Spanish King Felipe VI.
Castillo said he would work to redistribute wealth that has traditionally remained in the hands of a “tiny fraction” of Peruvians. “We will look at the industrial, agricultural and mining sectors in the country to see where changes will result in a more equitable society.”
At the beginning of speech, Castillo acknowledged his first job was to lead Peru out of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Before we can do anything else, we must defeat this terrible plague.”
In a symbolic gesture, Castillo said he will not live in Lima’s government palace known as the “House of Pizarro,” named after the Spanish conquistador who defeated the Inca Empire five centuries ago.