Peru chooses its next president

Peru chooses its next president
Peru chooses its next president

On Sunday in Peru there is the run-off of the presidential elections: the two candidates are Pedro Castillo, a far-left activist who obtained 19 percent of the votes in the first round, and Keiko Fujimori, a right-wing populist who stopped at 13. Whoever wins will have to deal with a very fragmented parliament and a political crisis that began a long time ago: Peru, in fact, has had five presidents in the last five years.

Castillo is 51 years old, a former teacher and head of the Marxist-inspired Peru Free party. He set up his election campaign by arguing that these elections were a class struggle between rich and poor, and saying that if he is elected he will eliminate inequalities in the country. Its goals include expanding state control over the industry and nationalizing mining activities, taxing foreign investors more and making investments in education and healthcare.

Fujimori, leader of the right-wing populist party Forza Popolare, is 46 years old and is best known for being the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, who in turn was president of Peru from 1990 to 2000, governing it in an extremely authoritarian manner. It is the third time that Keiko Fujimori has run for president: he had already done so in 2011 and 2016, losing both times. Until May 2020 she had been in prison on charges of money laundering (she had defined herself as a victim of political persecution): she said that if she is elected she will free her father, who is in prison with a 25-year sentence for corruption and systematic human rights violations committed during his presidency.

Observers did not expect that neither Castillo nor Fujimori would make it to the ballot. Until a few weeks ago the polls gave Castillo a fair advantage over his rival, but according to several polls cited by the Country, in the last month Fujimori would have recovered the detachment and attracted a large part of the undecided voters, above all because of one event in particular, which took place last May 23 in a small town about 300 kilometers east of the capital Lima.

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That day 16 people were killed in an attack attributed to the far-left terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, an organization born in Peru in 1980, of Marxist, Leninist and Maoist inspiration, which wants to establish a communist peasant revolutionary regime in the country. The Peruvian armed forces said they found several brochures next to the bodies that were wary of voting in the ballot and were signed by the Central Committee of the militarized Communist Party of Peru, which is a faction of Sendero Luminoso.

Fujimori, who had focused his campaign speech on the logic of order and security, attacked Castillo, accusing him of having links with the militants who were held responsible for the massacre; he also stressed his father’s commitment to fighting Sendero Luminoso and encouraged voters not to vote in favor of communism, arguing that Castillo would bring chaos to Peru. Castillo denied having any connection with Sendero Luminoso, while the recently elected Peruvian parliamentarian Guillermo Bermejo, who was investigated on suspicion of collaborating with the terrorist organization 13 years ago, dismissed the accusations, calling them “pure fantasy. “.

Most of the most recent polls still see Castillo ahead of Fujimori, but the margins are very tight.

That of the Ipsos Peru institute, for example, gives Castillo at 51.1 per cent and Fujimori at 48.9 per cent, while that of the research and market analysis company Datum sees Castillo ahead with a point of difference over Fujimori ( 50.5 percent versus 49.5 percent): Just a week ago, Castillo was ahead by 6.4 points (53.2 percent versus 46.8 percent). According to a Datum survey cited by Bloomberg, 43 percent of respondents believe that Peru Libero has connections with Sendero Luminoso; 42 percent said no and 15 percent said they didn’t know.

Currently Free Peru has 37 seats out of the 130 available in the single chamber of Peru and Forza Popolare has 24. Whoever wins the presidential elections will not only have to soften the tone to try to establish new alliances with other parties, but will also have to deal with a divided and discontented country. As has happened in other Latin American states, in fact, in recent years a great discontent with governments has spread in Peru due to growing unemployment, inequalities among the population and rampant corruption among politicians and public officials.

The recent history of Peru is particularly emblematic in this sense, especially for the vicissitudes that have affected the various presidents who have followed one another in the country.

In 2017 Ollanta Humala, president of Peru from 2011 to 2016, was arrested on corruption charges as part of the huge Odebrecht scandal, which involved the largest construction company in Latin America and which involved 14 countries on the continent . In 2019 Alan García, president from 2006 to 2011, committed suicide shortly after the police entered his home in Lima to arrest him: he too was under investigation for the Odebrecht scandal.

In November 2020, the Peruvian parliament voted in favor of impeachment of the then president Martín Vizcarra, accused among other things of accepting bribes for the equivalent of around half a million euros when he was governor of the Moquegua region. Vizcarra, a centrist, became president in 2018 taking over from Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who abruptly resigned after being himself accused of corruption. Manuel Merino was appointed in place of Vizcarra, but resigned within a few days following some violent protests.

On November 17, the Peruvian parliament elected Francisco Sagasti as the new president ad interim of the country, the third in the space of a week.

The great instability and the fact that in recent years many officials have been accused or convicted of corruption have contributed to fuel the distrust of the Peruvian political class. In addition, the scarce investments in health, highlighted by the crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, have increased the dissatisfaction of the population even more: problems that will hardly be able to be solved by the next or the next president.

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