Peru Election Explained: Who Are Keiko Fujimori And Pedro Castillo?
Peru experiences one of its least popular elections in recent history. With many Peruvians voicing that the choice in presidential candidates is by far the worst ever. Voters were left to pick between Pedro Castillo a socialist with a Marxist-Leninist agenda and Keiko Fujimori an authoritarian neoliberal with a fascist agenda. Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori failed to win a third of the votes in the first round of the presidential election. And according to many Peruvians, they are the worse candidates in the last 200 years.
Pedro Castillo is a socialist primary school teacher with no experience of government, and Keiko Fujimori is the neoliberal daughter of the notorious criminal and former president Alberto Fujimori who was found guilty of “creating and authorizing a military intelligence death squad that killed innocent people.” Keiko is also accused of participating in organized crime activities and had been briefly detained since 2019 until her release due to COVID19 safety concerns.
Castillo won Peru's June 6 2021 presidential runoff with a razor-thin majority but is yet to be declared officially. There have been rumors of electoral fraud and irregularities by opposition voices, groups, as well as from Keiko Fujimori who has pledged to fight the result. So far there has been no official evidence of electoral fraud presented to a judicial body and observers say it was a "fairly clean election process".
Who is Pedro Castillo?
Jose Pedro Castillo Terrones leads the socially conservative faction of the left-wing party Free Peru. Free Peru was founded by Vladimir Cerrón, a criminal who was barred from being the party’s candidate for the Presidency because of his pending corruption accusations which including money laundering. Peru Libre is also under scrutiny for its wider links to organized crime groups such as "Los Dinámicos del Centro."
Castillo is a devout evangelical Christian and has been vocal in his opposition against women's rights issues such as legalizing abortion. He has declared that his government would oppose femicide and blamed the state for shielding perpetrators and not doing enough to change the culture that produces it. He has also been vocal against same-sex marriage and in his rallies, he has asked his followers to “repudiate” gender transition and promotes traditional gender roles for men and women.
Castillo's Free Peru party is heavily influenced by Marxist-Leninism and is based on the principles of socialism. This has led many opponents of the new president, mostly right-wing members, to claim that they fear for democracy in Peru. These sentiments were also exacerbated for comments he's made during interviews where he described Venezuela's government, under Nicolas Maduro, as "democratic" because the national legislature includes members of the opposition in its process. While some argue Venezuela has been turned into a dictatorship, others point to other countries in South America where alleged democratic governments are under the rule of puppet candidates upheld by organized crime and multinational corporations.
Some right-wing commentators also claim Castillo is a supporter of left-wing terrorist organizations, an accusation that has no known evidence backing it. Some members of Free Peru however do have ties to the left-wing Maoist terrorist organization Shining Path, such as Guillermo Bermejo, who was elected to Congress in spring, according to the Peruvian public prosecutor's office. In 1969, Castillo served in the local Rondas Campesinas, community self-defense forces were organized by farmers to protect communities from guerrilla attacks in the 1980s and '90s. They mostly confronted the Maoist terrorist group Shining Path and the Marxist-Leninist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. The Fujimori government failed to protect rural Peruvians during that period.
Castillo has previously proposed nationalizing the mining industry, including oil and gas extraction, if contracts with companies are not renegotiated satisfactorily. He later clarified that he was not planning nationalizations or expropriations, but would add a tax overhaul on mining to help pay for planned healthcare and education reforms. He has also declared that he plans to reacquisition up to 70% of profits from transnational firms mining in the country's copper-rich Andes. A move that while popular with most Peruvians living in rural areas and regions directly affected by resource corporations has signaled worry in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere these corporations originate from. He has also declared his intention of overhauling the pension system to favor workers and plans to boost state spending on agriculture and education.
Castillo has announced plans to abolish the Constitutional Court and create a tribunal to which members are voted in by the public rather than by the legislature. He has also signaled his intent to tighten control of the media. He has also proposed a new rewrite of the constitution which he plans to achieve through a Constitutional Assembly, he claims his plan to rewrite to Peru's constitution will add "the color, scent and flavor of the people."
Who is Keiko Fujimori?
Keiko Fujimori is making her third attempt for the presidency while running under the Fuerza Popular party. She is the daughter of the criminal and international pariah Alberto Fujimori who was in power from 1990 to 2000. During Alberto Fujimori's bloody rule he implemented death squads and genocidal policies that forced tens of thousands of indigenous women to be sterilized. Alberto is currently serving a 25-year sentence for authorizing death squad killings and kidnappings. Keiko Fujimori has openly declared she would pardon her father if she won, she claims her father is innocent of the crimes he has been found guilty of and promises to fill his shoes. Her support for her murderous father worries many Peruvians, especially those whose communities were directed impacted by the Fujimori reign of terror.
On 10 October 2018, Fujimori was arrested on charges of money laundering days after the Peruvian Supreme Court nullified a controversial pardon given to her father and ordering him back to prison. Keiko Fujimori is facing trial over claims she received $1.2m from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to fund previous presidential campaigns in 2011 and 2016. Prosecutors also accuse Keiko Fujimori of hiding the money through a complex network of dozens of frontmen. Fujimori’s arrest is part of a broader crackdown on organized crime and over the past decade, four former Peruvian presidents have been issued arrest warrants for their alleged dealings with Odebrecht. One former president, Alejandro Toledo, hid in the United States, was captured, and is now awaiting extradition. Meanwhile another former president, Alan García, allegedly committed suicide at his home in Lima right before police could arrest him. It is alleged organized crime in government is an epidemic in Peru and in 2020 Peru's former President Martin Vizcarra dissolved the nation’s congress after parliamentarians refused to back his anti-corruption measures. This led to Vizcarra being impeached for his own ties to corruption in retaliation. This created a constitutional crisis that led to mass protests nationwide which were violently cracked down on by authorities, who injured and killed several protestors.
Fujimori was conditionally freed in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak and was barred from leaving Peru or communicating with co-defendants or witnesses in the case. Prosecutors are seeking a 30-year jail term for Keiko and the “dissolution and liquidation” of her party Fuerza Popular. Had Fujimori won the presidential election, her legal process would have been delayed until the end of her term. As a result of attempting to avoid a hefty prison sentence, Keiko Fujimori has refused to admit defeat in the 2021 elections and has sought the disqualification of up to 200,000 votes on the grounds of fraud, a claim for which she has provided no public evidence.