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Socialist Teacher Takes Lead in Peruvian Election as Nation Reels from Pandemic & Political Crisis

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We get an update from Peru, where socialist candidate Pedro Castillo has pulled ahead of his right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori in the country’s presidential election on Sunday. Castillo is the son of peasant farmers, and a union leader who led a nationwide teachers’ strike in 2017. Fujimori is the daughter of former dictator Alberto Fujimori, who is in prison for human rights abuses and corruption. Political scientist Carlos León Moya discusses the history of the two candidates and describes how the election took place amid a years-long political crisis. “You have most of the Peruvian political elite charged by corruption,” he says. “Keiko Fujimori was in prison herself two years ago for a corruption case.”

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StoryJan 11, 2023Peru: Death Toll Tops 40 as Security Forces Crack Down on Protests over President Castillo’s Ouster
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

We end today’s show in Peru, where the socialist candidate Pedro Castillo has pulled ahead of his right-wing rival, Keiko Fujimori, in the country’s presidential election runoff that took place Sunday.

Castillo is the son of peasant farmers. He’s a schoolteacher and union leader who led a nationwide teachers’ strike in 2017, has pledged to reform Peru’s Constitution and mining laws.

Fujimori is the daughter of the former dictator Alberto Fujimori, who’s in prison for human rights abuses and corruption.

On Monday, Keiko Fujimori claimed, without proof, that Castillo’s party, Free Peru, stole votes, and said she won’t concede yet.

All of this comes after Peruvian lawmakers ousted former President Martín Vizcarra in November in what some called a legislative coup.

Meanwhile, the latest data from Johns Hopkins University shows Peru is tied with Mexico for the world’s highest COVID-19 case fatality rate.

For more, we go to Lima, Peru, where we’re joined by the political scientist Carlos León Moya, who has been closely following this election.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Carlos. Why don’t you lay out the state of the election results as we know them so far, with the socialist candidate, Castillo, narrowly ahead?


Yes. I mean, what you just said, that yesterday Keiko Fujimori claimed fraud was an admission of her third loss in a row in an election. Castillo has right now 87,000 votes more than Keiko Fujimori, especially from the rural highlands, which is the country’s poorest region. Keiko Fujimori was expecting to win with the Peruvian diaspora vote, especially in the United States and Spain. But the difference is very big, you know? It’s very big for the votes that remain to count.

So, yes, yesterday she claimed fraud. She claimed fraud. What you have right now is the overwhelming help from the private media to Keiko Fujimori. The coverage is very biased for her and against Pedro Castillo. But I think what we will have here in Peru is one more week of uncertainty, but I also think that the distance that Pedro Castillo, the lead that he has against Fujimori, is very difficult to reverse.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you, in terms of the — could you talk a little bit about the crisis that has been engulfing now Peru for quite some time? Back in November, the lawmakers ousted the former president, Martín Vizcarra. And what led to Vizcarra’s impeachment? And there were several other leaders in between, heads of state. How has this had an impact, even, for instance, on voter turnout in this election?

CARLOS LEÓN MOYA: Yes. I mean, you have most of Peruvian political elite charged by corruption. Keiko Fujimori was imprisoned herself two years ago for a corruption case. Not only her father was in prison, she also was in prison for a year and a half. Alan García, the former president of Peru, he killed himself when he was about to be taken to prison. And it doesn’t distinguish from left- or right-leaning. You had the former mayor of Lima, which is the capital of Peru, Susana Villarán, also going to jail. And what the COVID crisis did was, some of them, because of their age, were taken out of their jails and being sent home. So, first, it was a — you already have in Peru a very public rejection of our political elite, and now it was bigger because most of them went to jail.

When they went to jail, Martín Vizcarra was president. And Martín Vizcarra was in charge by corruption, I mean, until last year. So he was also a very unpopular president, no? All the political elite were in prison. And Martín Vizcarra wasn’t that different from them. But then, the corruption charges started to be near Martín Vizcarra. I don’t know if he’s innocent or not, but he was also investigated by the same charges. And there was also what you just called allegedly this coup, you know, in November 2020 that ousted Martín Vizcarra.

And there were huge protests in Peru, which were very unusual, which was very unusual because usually when you have protests in Peru, they are on the highlands or they are like union protests, like the one that Castillo led in 2017. But there was a huge protest in Lima, massive demonstrations in Lima, which is the capital, which is pretty right-leaning. And they were very successful. In fact, they just ousted Manuel Merino.

But after that, what you discover, that it just went down. It didn’t bring a renovation of the political class, because the demonstrations were done when the elections were already taking part. You have already inscribed the political — the presidential candidates, the candidates for the governor. So you didn’t change much of the political elite or the political candidates that were going through this election. So, yeah, it was a very sudden protest, a very successful protest, but you have to know it ended very sudden, in November, and the election is another story. So, you don’t have — how to make like a connection between the two of them.

In fact, one of the things that we talk here in Peru is, “Oh, do you remember the November protests, how hopeful we were that Peru will change its course? No?” And now you see what happens, no? I mean, what happened in April in the first round was that most of the candidates have 15 or 10%. You have like six, seven candidates that have 10% of the — of vote intention in the polls. It was, I mean, like a political class like breaking in broken pieces, you know? You have the left, you have also candidates from the far right, that you didn’t have. You have, I mean, Fujimorismo, which is very right-leaning, but you have, you know, a far-right candidate, who is called Rafael López Aliaga, who call himself the Peruvian Trump, who call himself the Peruvian Bolsonaro, and he almost go — he almost got himself in the second round.


CARLOS LEÓN MOYA: So, yes, and — yes, sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.


AMY GOODMAN: You’ll find out within this week, you believe, who exactly won, if Castillo maintains his lead?


AMY GOODMAN: Well, Carlos León Moya, we want to thank you so much for being with us, political scientist, speaking to us from Lima, Peru. And special thanks to Sadie Luetmer.

That does it for our show. Tomorrow we’ll look at a new film that’s premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s called Takeover, about the Young Lords. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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Peru: Death Toll Tops 40 as Security Forces Crack Down on Protests over President Castillo’s Ouster

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