Monday, June 14, 2021

Rural Teacher Pedro Castillo Poised to Write a New Chapter in Peru’s History

Castillo, the son of illiterate peasants, overcame vicious media attacks and is on the verge of defeating Keiko Fujimori, the scion of a Peruvian political dynasty.

By Medea Benjamin and Leonardo Flores  


June 8, 2021 - With his wide-brimmed peasant hat and oversized teacher’s pencil held high, Peru’s Pedro Castillo traveled the country ahead of the June 6 election exhorting voters to get behind a call that has been particularly urgent during this devastating pandemic: “No más pobres en un país rico”— No more poor people in a rich country. In a cliff-hanger election with a huge urban-rural and class divide, it appears that the rural teacher, farmer, and union leader is about to make history by defeating powerful far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, scion of the country’s political “Fujimori dynasty.”

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Castillo led with 50.3 percent over Fujimori’s 49.7 percent. With her opponent in the lead by a narrow margin, now Fujimori is challenging the results, alleging widespread fraud. Her campaign has only presented evidence of isolated irregularities, and so far there is nothing to suggest a tainted vote. However, she can challenge some of the votes to delay the final results, and much like in the United States, even an allegation of fraud by the losing candidate will cause uncertainty and raise tensions.

Castillo’s victory will be remarkable not only because he is a leftist teacher who is the son of illiterate peasants and whose campaign was grossly outspent by Fujimori. But also, there was a relentless propaganda attack against him that touched on historical fears of Peru’s middle class and elites. This campaign was similar to what happened recently to progressive candidate Andrés Arauz, who narrowly lost Ecuador’s presidential elections in April, but even more intense. Continued