Apr 27, 2021
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Pedro Castillo and his “Free Peru”

Before the second round of the presidential election, he became the most prominent figure in the country’s political arena

The first round of the presidential elections held in Peru on April 11 confirmed that the crisis processes in this country are far from being resolved.

18 politicians participated in the race of the first round, and most of them are tied to oligarchic clans. Yonhy Lescano of the centrist People’s Action was the likely winner of the first round. Washington sympathized with him, although this “center-left populist” proposed to nationalize the country’s raw materials. Why not blurt out in the heat of the struggle for the highest state post in order to please the people!

Keiko Fujimori (People’s Power), well-known in politics, remained in second place in the first round, having received 13%. Contrary to all predictions, in the first round, the candidate of the left-wing Free Peru party, Pedro Castillo, won with 19% of the vote. In 2017, he led the speeches of teachers who fought to improve their financial situation. The protests lasted two months, and Castillo rose to prominence. He used his experience as a rural teacher in the election campaign, making a pencil and a wide-brimmed straw hat as her symbols. The horse became part of the image: this is the only way to move along the mountain paths. His support groups include hundreds of teachers, whose authority is traditionally indisputable for the people of the province. Opponents from the right-wing parties call Castillo a left-wing radical politician.

Among the principal provisions of Castillo’s presidential program are the convocation of a constitutional assembly to develop a new Basic Law, reform of education and health care in the interests of the majority of the people, an agrarian policy with an emphasis on ensuring national security, a ban on the privatization of water resources, the fight against corruption and drug trafficking, environmental protection , as well as the introduction of the labor code and the modernization of the pension system. Castillo announced his intention to abandon life-long presidential content, limiting himself to a teacher’s salary.

If in the first round Castillo was in the shadows, and he was mentioned as if by the way, then before the second round he became the most prominent figure in the political arena of Peru.

With words of support through the media, he was approached by the former head of Uruguay, Jorge Mujica, and the former president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, to whom Castillo is often compared. Evo does not hide his emotions: “We welcome and express our respect and admiration for Pedro Castillo from Peru, who has the same agenda as ours: a peaceful democratic and cultural revolution, protection of natural resources and the promotion of the Constitutional Assembly in the interests of the people to achieve social justice.”

The Peruvian Foreign Ministry immediately spoke about this reaction: “The Foreign Ministry expresses concern that foreigners are expressing views on the elections in Peru, which is a clear interference in internal affairs.” Castillo himself took the solidarity statements of left-wing Latin American politicians with apprehension: would they interfere with the election campaign? Under the influence of US propaganda, Peruvians are suspicious of the Cuban and Venezuelan experience of reforms, they perceive it as alien to Peruvian history and traditions. Associations with Cuba and Venezuela can scare away voters. Perhaps that is why Castillo, leaving unanswered the warm words of Evo Morales, preemptively turned to the Venezuelan leader, who had not yet uttered a word about Castillo’s success: “As for Venezuela, I would like to openly tell Senor Maduro, please, if you have something What are you going to say about Peru, first put things in order in your internal affairs, and then come here for your compatriots who have come here to commit crimes. ”

In addition to his hostility towards Maduro, Castillo made attacks against the Venezuelans, who, due to the US economic blockade, moved to Peru. Venezuelans and other expats are often victims of crime in this country, but Castillo ignored this. And his political opponents perceived his declarations as a clever maneuver: “Castillo’s attempts to distance himself from the Latin American left are a deception of voters, a disguise of his communist background.”

Giving slack and pushing away the hands of potential allies, Castillo made a mistake. If you are not with the left, then who are you with? The politician’s attempt to “meet the people” after the first victorious round turned out to be a failure. In the third largest city of Trujillo in the north of the country, Castillo was booed. This was prepared in advance. Peruvian television and newspapers reported the incident, emphasizing that the locals surrounded the politician with shouts: “There are no communists in Trujillo, you are a robber and a terrorist, a parasite living at the expense of the state, get out of here.” This kind of operation to compromise “objects” was described at one time by CIA staffer Philip Agee in the documentary book “Inside the Company”. None of the accusations of the “spontaneous crowd” were true, but this is the law of election campaigns: the more lies, the higher the chances of winning.

Nobel laureate writer Mario Vargas Llosa got involved in the fray. He said in a TV interview that Castillo’s victory would mean an attempt to introduce the Cuban or Venezuelan model in Peru. The writer said that to prevent such a development of events, the Peruvian military could intervene, up to the organization of a coup.

Castillo immediately responded on social networks: “Peruvian literature is in mourning, Mario Vargas Llosa is the messenger of corruption.”

Castillo himself acts as a politician who has not tainted himself with corruption, drugs, or financial fraud. The scandalous political elite, which for years determined the fate of the country in their predatory interests, united against him, and Mario Vargas Llosa objectively sided with her. It is enough to name a few names to understand the essence of Castillo’s message: Alberto Fujimori, Alejandro Toledo, Alan Garcia, Ollanta Humala, Pedro Kucinschi, Martin Viscarra – all of these presidents have been prosecuted for corruption and abuse of power. Someone was convicted, someone is still under investigation. Toledo, who collaborated with the American special services, took refuge in the United States. Garcia committed suicide in April 2019 when the police came to him with an arrest warrant. Umala served time in prison for accepting a bribe from the Brazilian octopus construction company Odebrecht.

Political analysts in Peru are pondering the options for the second round of campaigns by the Castillo and Keiko Fujimori teams. There is a lot of optimism about Keiko given her possible dealings with underdog right-wing politicians and the support of the US Embassy. For Washington, the main task remains to maintain strategic positions in Peru: military bases in Iquitos, Nanai and Saint Lucia, secret DEA operational centers in the Amazon, three ports used by the US Fourth Fleet. From this point of view, Keiko will not be a problem.

There is no information about Castillo’s meetings with the staff of the political section of the US Embassy, ​​although probing meetings were held with all presidential candidates, and it is difficult to imagine that Castillo remained out of sight of American intelligence officers. Will he have the character not to make a deal at the most crucial stage of the election campaign?

The second round of the presidential elections in Peru will take place on June 6.

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