Socialist Pedro Castillo is Peru’s New President

On the tenth day of counting 18,856,616 ballots, teacher-unionist-socialist Pedro Castillo, 51, Free Peru party candidate, has won the presidential election by 44,058 votes. He had 8,835,579 to his opponent, Keiko Fujimori, 46, 8,791,521 votes. There were 1,108,039 blank and null ballots.

His virulent rival, the right-wing Popular Force party that Fujimori founded, refuses to accept her close defeat, the third time trying failed in her effort to become president. She continues to rant wild and baseless charges of hundreds of thousands of “fraudulent” votes for her opponent in 800 “acts”, which would nullify 200,000 votes at some polling places where she lost.  Aping Trump after his 2020 election loss, she has a slew of prominent lawyers filing legal-like papers daily, hoping to find a court that will overturn the majority decision.

This is an historical election result for Peru, and an outstanding inspiration to workers like Castillo throughout Latin America and beyond.

Non-politician Pedro Castillo is scheduled to take office on July 28.

Although Ecuador’s socialist presidential candidate Andres Arauz lost to  former Coca Cola director, banker millionaire Guillermo Lasso last April, the Latin American pink tide dating from the beginning of the 21st century appears to be reviving after other recent defeats.

Bolivia’s new socialist President Luis Arce, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa, Brazil’s ex-Presidents Lula Da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, and Colombia’s ex-Senator Piedad Cordoba sent joyful messages to Castillo.

The National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) announced on June 16, at 15:19 that 100% of the votes showed the winner to be Castillo.

Although ONPE completed its work showing that Castillo having the highest number of votes, as of June 17 the National Jury of Elections (JNE) had not officially proclaimed who was the president-elect. It said it still had to recheck already counted votes, in order to satisfy the suits filed by scores of Keiko Fujimori lawyers. Peru’s virtual president-elect called on the electoral authorities not to postpone the official announcement of his victory and to respect the will of the people.

The fact that the JNE has delayed announcing the official victor has encouraged turmoil and demonstrations in front of JNE and ONPE leaders’ houses.

“A group of supporters of the presidential candidate of The Popular Force, Keiko Fujimori, approached the exterior of the house of Magistrate Jorge Rodríguez Vélez, a member of the plenary session of the National Elections Jury (JNE), to hold a sit-in.” They shouted, “Respect my vote, JNE.” Elecciones 2021: Fujimoristas protestan en la casa de Jorge Rodríguez, miembro del pleno del JNE | La República (larepublica.pe)

Peru was faced with two extremes, and many were unhappy that a moderate candidate did not make the run-off. Peruvians had the choice of electing the first worker and socialist in its history, or a criminal and steadfast neoliberal capitalist, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, an authoritarian leader who fled the country after being charged with corruption and human rights abuses, but who was eventually caught and is serving 25 years in prison.

In the April 11 general election, schoolteacher Pedro Castillo led a crowded race among 18 candidates garnering 19% of the voters despite his never before having engaged in parliamentary politics. Keiko Fujimori, a congresswoman from 2011-16, took second place with 13.36%. She had come in second place in two prior presidential elections. In 2011, she barely lost to Ollanta Humala with 51.5%. In 2016, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski squeaked by with 50.12% of the voters.

(See background piece to run-off and the candidates: Peru Election: Close Race Between Left and Right – This Can’t Be Happening! (thiscantbehappening.net)

From the start of counting the votes following 12 hours of casting ballots last Sunday, the lead shifted back and forth with one or the other candidate leading by margins that ranged from 0.1 – 0.5% of votes counted.

Following a short-held lead by Pedro Castillo, Keiko Fujimori led in urban areas by one to two percent. She held the lead throughout Sunday’s counting, and led early Monday as well. Later in the day as more rural votes rural counted, the tide turned in Castillo’s favor. Fujimori then claimed that his party had “distort[ed] or delay[ed] results that reflect the will of the people.” How this was supposed to have happened was not explained, but she nonetheless  then called upon her supporters to protest. Keiko Fujimori acusa al partido de Castillo de “estrategia” para “distorsionar los resultados” (cnn.com)

Peru’s currency (the Sol) “headed to its biggest drop in more than a decade and the S&P/BVL Peru General Index fell as much as 5.8%, the most since November, with mining companies and financial firms among the hardest hit. Overseas bonds were steady in light trading while the cost to insure against a default edged higher…after investor favorite Keiko Fujimori saw her early lead over leftist opponent Pedro Castillo fade overnight and in the early morning. With almost 93% of votes counted [Sunday morning], Fujimori had 50.1% support to 49.9% for Castillo, a former school teacher turned union organizer from the Peruvian highlands. Castillo traded places once 94% were counted: 50.07 to Fujimori’s 49.92%.” Peru Stocks, Sol Plunge With Presidential Vote Too Close to Call (yahoo.com) Peru’s presidential runoff election too close to call (beaumontenterprise.com)

While Fujimori won every district in Lima’s capital region, the unionist teacher and former farmer, whose parents are illiterate peasants, is overwhelmingly supported in the countryside. Castillo stands for reforming the economy with greater state control over markets and natural resources; ending or curtailing mining; a 30% cut for public works and social welfare from corporation profits gained from the use of fossil fuels; and increasing pensions and wages. Fujimori wants more of the same “free market economy”, and spreads fear warning of “communism” taking over the country.

The corporations and White House favorite, Fujimori was also supported by middle and upper class city women, simply because she is a woman. She was backed by celebrities, wealthy players on the national soccer team, and the nation’s most famous author, former communist sympathizer turned extreme conservative, Mario Vargas Llosa. The Nobel Literature Prize winner even campaigned for her unapologetically desipite her and her father’s criminality. For Llosa, she represents the “lesser evil”.

Fear of Violence Influences Election Campaign 

National Elections Board chairman Jorge Luis Salas stated that there were 166 international observers and 1,4000 Transparency Civil Association observers monitoring the voting process.

“Conditions for reasonable and transparent elections are in place,” Salas added. Peru: Election board reaffirms transparency in election, asks to wait for official results | News | ANDINA – Peru News Agency

In addition, tens of thousands of police and soldiers patrolled throughout the land. They reported no incidences of chaos or violence. There were, however a few hundred reports of people bringing candidate propaganda into voting areas.

Nevertheless, pro-Fujimori elite backers dirtied the last days of the campaign attempting to connect a massacre of 18 people to the non-politician man of the people, Pedro Castillo.

A revived Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), adopting the name Militarist Communist Party of Peru, was apparently involved in a massacre two weeks ago. Eighteen civilians, including eight women and two children, were shot or hacked to death at Vraem, in the country’s heartland.

Details of what actually happened have not yet been published in Peru. Authorities say some 500 guerrillas control much of the area where they lord over cocaine production. They demanded that there be no voting, especially spreading fear about voting for “traitor Keiko Fujimori”.

Corporations and the mass media used this calamity to further smear the campaign of Free Peru’s party candidate Pedro Castillo, while Keiko Fujimori, Peru Force party candidate, said that as president she would assure that “communism does not occur in Peru”. Vraem: Ministerio Público abre investigación por asesinato de 18 personas en presunto ataque terrorista | ACTUALIDAD | TROME

Castillo expressed solidarity with the families, and said the murders were acts of terrorism.

The most read social medium in Peru, wayka.pe, with 1.5 million daily hits, writes of how this election-of-the-century is saturated with fear messages, especially those by businesses spreading the witch-hunt cry of “communism” on outdoor panels, store windows, on vehicles and in advertisements.
Elecciones 2021: Fake news y psicosociales – Wayka

Wayka wrote that this election will be remembered for “citizen polarization, the psycho-socials, the false news and the fear campaigns that have been deployed at the national level to direct the vote towards the presidential candidate…” Keiko Fujimori, who is under judicial investigation for money laundering, obstruction of justice, illegal association, perjury in court, and leading a criminal organization. The Prosecutor’s Office requests 30 years in prison if she is found guilty.

Some political science experts expected that if former President Alberto Fujimori’s daughter won, she would have endeavored to quash the indictments against her, for which she has already served 15 months in preventative custody and is currently out on house arrest. Fujimori declared that if elected president she would pardon her father, who has served a half  his 25-year sentence for massive corruption, taking bribes, and for his role in ordering the murder of 25 persons by a secret death squads whose killers were military men.

For the business elite and its media, the only real danger to “democracy”, as they say, is Pedro Castillo. All the corruption, bribes, swindles, murders are nothing, they argue, compared to  socialism that aims to equalize rights and benefits, end military “solutions” to struggles against poverty and injustices, and to halt country’s  endless wars.

In the last days of this campaign, both candidates concentrated on promising an all-out battle against the corona virus, which has taken 186,073 Peruvian lives. Peru leads the world in percentage of deaths per capita: 572.3 per 100,000. Of its 33.3 million population, nearly two million have been infected. The country closest to deaths per 100,000 population is Hungary with 305.

Peru’s ethnic makeup (self-identified) is 60% mestizo; ca. 27% indigenous, 85% of them are Quechas, the remainder Aymaras and Amazonians; ca. 5% white, ca. 2% black/mulatto, 6.7% others.

Voting is mandatory in Peru for all persons 18 to 70. There are 25,193,971 registered voters. Turnout at 77%, lower than 82%, in 2016. Those caught not voting pay either 22, 44, or 88 Sols ($5.50, $11, $22) for the poorest to those not poor. In 2019, the average monthly income per capita was 1,035 Sols. The poorest has only 278 sols. A fine for the poorest is eight percent of that.

The poor and the rich throughout Latin America will be watching to see what this new feisty farmer-teacher-unionist  will attempt to accomplish as a socialist president. Wall Street is watching too.

Ron Ridenour can be reached through his website: www.ronridenour.com

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