Teacher, Campesino, Union Leader Pedro Castillo Apparent Winner of Peru’s Presidential Election

Interview with Francesca Emanuele, a Peruvian sociologist and columnist, conducted by Scott Harris

Two weeks after Peru’s June 6 presidential election, no winner has been officially declared. But with 100 percent of the vote counted, Pedro Castillo, the leftist candidate of the Free Peru party, had 50.12 percent of the vote, an advantage of some 44,000 votes over his far-right rival, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori.

Castillo, a 51-year-old son of peasant farmers, former teacher and union leader, has pledged to renegotiate contracts with foreign mining companies to mandate 70 percent of their profits remain in the country and says he’ll dedicate 20 percent of Peru’s gross domestic product to funding healthcare and education.

Fujimori, who faces corruption charges, has made unsubstantiated claims of large-scale election fraud, challenging 500,000 votes, calling for half those ballots to be annulled. Her charge has forced Peru’s National Jury of Elections to reexamine ballots – despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing.  Rival demonstrations by supporters of each candidate have increased tensions, and there’s growing fear of a military coup. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Francesca Emanuele, a Peruvian sociologist and columnist who was an observer of the June 6 election. Here she talks about the apparent winner, Pedro Castillo, and Fujimori’s attempt to overturn the election.

FRANCESCA EMANUELE: This is a historic election for Peru and for the region and actually for the world. And everything shows that Peruvians have elected for the first time in its history — since the country became a republic 200 years ago — a president who comes from the working class and his name is Pedro Castillo. He’s 51 years old and he worked as a schoolteacher for 24 years in his town in northern Peru, Puña. So Castillo has not only seen poverty up close, but has experienced it. He’s aware that although Peru has been one of the countries that has grown the most economically in the region in the last 50 years, that growth has remained only in a few hands. So he’s aware that Peru’s economic policy model must be transformed.

He wants to redraft the constitution to replace the current one approved in 1993, under the leadership of Alberto Fujimori. Actually, I was living in Peru then, and this is a constitution that was made by 80 members of the elite and a constitution that provides the framework for one of the wildest and cruelest, experimental neoliberal policies in the region. Recently, we’ve seen that Peru is the country that has the highest rate in deaths, as a result of COVID-19. More than 180,000 people have died. So Castillo wants to sharply hike taxes on mining, fight corporate income tax avoidance. And he wants to more than triple the budget for public education and increase the spending in public health. The public health system is in shambles and he talked also about nationalizing the strategic resources like natural gas.

SCOTT HARRIS: Keiko Fujimori, who is the daughter of the former president or dictator of Peru, who’s now in prison. She’s an extreme right candidate. After the vote, she charged that there was election fraud and there’s been a delay in announcing the election winner. Tell us a bit about the situation on the ground right now in terms of the declaration of a winner.

FRANCESCA EMANUELE: Yeah. So as you said, everything indicates that Castillo will be the winner of these presidential elections in Peru. He has an advantage of around 50,000 votes at this point against his opponent Keiko Fujimori. More than 99 percent of the votes have been counted. But as you mentioned, his opponent Keiko Fujimori has alleged electoral fraud without offering any concrete proof for her claim. And she has tried to annul some votes with no luck, because as I said, there is no evidence of fraud. International organizations that observed the elections, such as the Organization of American States and the European Union have said that these elections were transparent and with no evidence of fraud. But despite this, Keiko has been able to hold up the official confirmation of the result. She requested the electoral institutions in Peru to conduct an audit of the electronic transfer of votes.

Her strategy is similar to what we saw here in the United States with Donald Trump. She is creating a fraud narrative and polarizing even more the country. She wants to destabilize Castillo’s government so he can’t run in his presidency. Or, he could even be impeached by Congress if she exacerbates the mood in the country and the mood of the elites, especially, as she is doing right now. And she will try to delay the announcement of Castillo’s victory as much as she can.

We have to see that for her, these elections are very important. Otherwise, she will end up in prison and many members of her party as well. Keiko is the daughter off the former Peruvian dictator, as you said, Alberto Fujimori. Keiko became the leader of his party when her father was put in prison for 25 years. And for the past 15 months, Keiko has been under investigation for money laundering and for financing his party with bribes. The investigation I mentioned continues, and the public prosecutor of Peru has requested a sentence of 30 years for her, for Keiko Fujimori.

 

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