Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

Return of Marxist Shining Path guerillas stalks Peru's polarising election

Getty Images Pedro Castillo has drawn intense media security since winning the first round Getty Images Pedro Castillo has drawn intense media security since winning the first round
Adrian Cunningham | 08 June, 2021, 17:49

Many Peruvians hold a deep mistrust of politicians following two decades in which five former presidents have been investigated or prosecuted for corruption.

Castillo is an elementary school teacher who also works for a teachers' union. Peru now has the world's worst coronavirus death rate per capita. Far-left presidential candidates are also in front in early election polls in Chile and Colombia, where unrest has been mounting.

In this 24 March, 2021 file photo, presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori waves to supporters as she campaigns on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. In Peru, Castillo, an outsider who was unknown by most in the country just a few months ago, capitalized on the crisis by pledging to reduce inequality and end systems that favored the wealthy elite.

Peru's presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, leader of the Popular Force party, addresses the media in Lima, Peru April 14, 2021.

"They haven't counted our votes yet", Castillo told supporters Sunday in Tacabamba, in the northern Cajamarca region where he lives.

Two million Peruvians have lost their jobs during the pandemic and almost a third of the country now live in poverty, according to official figures. The breakdown of the ballots yet to be counted - some from overseas that tend to favor Fujimori but more from rural areas where Castillo has been outperforming - suggests Fujimori's path to victory is narrowing.

Trade unionist schoolteacher Castillo has pledged to nationalize vital industries, raise taxes, eliminate tax exemptions and increase state regulation.

Favored by the business sector and middle classes, Fujimori tried to portray Castillo as a communist threat, warning that Peru would become a new Venezuela or North Korea should he win.

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Fujimori, 46, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, is promising to maintain economic stability and pro-free market policies in the world's second-largest copper producer.

Fujimori, a former congresswoman, was imprisoned as part of a corruption investigation.

Whoever wins will have a hard time governing as Congress is fragmented.

In a news conference, Ms Fujimori alleged that there had been a "strategy by Peru Libre [Free Peru, the party of Mr Castillo] to distort and delay the results which reflect the popular will".

They have both called for calm while the count is under way.

If Castillo triumphs, he'll have to "consolidate a parliamentary majority that will allow him to deliver his ambitious program".

Overseas Peruvians make up around one million, nearly four per cent of the 25 million-strong electoral roll.

Peruvian President Francisco Sagasti urged citizens to "consolidate democracy" by voting in the elections.