Monday, October 18, 2021

Rural teacher elected president in Peru

LIMA, Peru – Rural educator-turned-political novice Pedro Castillo on Monday won Peru’s presidential election, the country’s longest electoral count in 40 years.

Castillo, whose supporters included poor and rural Peruvians, defeated right-wing politician Keiko Fujimori by 44,000 votes. Electoral officials released the final official results more than a month after the runoff election was held in the South American nation.

Carrying a cane-shaped pencil to symbolize his Peru Libre party, Castillo popularized the phrase “in a rich country no more poor”. The economy of Peru, the world’s second-largest copper producer, has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, raising poverty levels to nearly one-third of the population and eroding a decade of gains.

Peru’s lack of public health services has contributed to the country’s poor pandemic outcomes, making it the one with the highest global per capita death rate. Castillo has promised to use revenue from the mining sector to improve public services, including education and health, whose inadequacies were highlighted by the pandemic.

“Those who don’t have a car must have at least one bicycle,” Castillo, 51, told the Associated Press in mid-April at his adobe house in Anguía, Peru’s third poorest district.

Pedro Castillo speaks to his supporters after election officials declared him president-elect during a ceremony at his party’s campaign headquarters in Lima, Peru, July 19, 2021.

Since surprising Peruvians and observers by advancing the presidential runoff election, Castillo has softened his earlier proposals on the nationalization of multinational mining and natural gas companies. Instead, his campaign has said he is considering raising taxes on profits due to higher copper prices, which exceed $10,000 a tonne.

Historians say he is the first farmer to become president of Peru, where, until now, indigenous peoples have almost always received the worst public services, even though the nation claimed to be Latin America’s economic star in the first two decades. Ho. century.

“There is no case of a person unrelated to the professional, military or economic elite reaching the presidency,” Cecilia Mendez, a Peruvian historian and professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, told a radio station.

Fujimori, a former congressman, ran for the presidency for the third time with the support of the business elite. She is the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori.

Hundreds of Peruvians from different regions camped for more than a month in front of the electoral tribunal in the Peruvian capital, Lima, to await Castillo’s announcement. Many do not belong to Castillo’s party, but they trust the professor because “he will not be like other politicians who have not kept their promises and do not protect the poor,” said Maruja Inquila, an environmental activist who Came from a nearby town. Titicaca, the legendary lake of the Incas.

Castillo’s meteoric rise from unknown to president-elect has deeply divided the Andean nation.

Writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who holds the Nobel Prize for Literature, has said that Castillo “represents the disappearance of democracy and freedom in Peru.” Meanwhile, the retired soldiers sent a letter to the commander of the armed forces asking them not to honor Castillo’s victory.

Fujimori said on Monday she would accept Castillo’s victory after being accused of election fraud without evidence. The allegation delayed his appointment as president-elect because he asked electoral officials to nullify thousands of votes, many in indigenous and poor communities in the Andes.

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“Let’s not put obstacles to moving this country forward,” Castillo asked Fujimori in his first remarks in front of hundreds of followers in Lima.

The United States, the European Union and 14 electoral missions determined that voting was fair. The US called the election a “model of democracy” for the region.

Steven Levitsky, a political scientist at Harvard University, told a radio station that Castillo was coming “very vulnerable” to the presidency, and in some sense “very similar” to Salvador Allende’s position when he came to power in Chile in 1970. and Joo Goulart, who became President of Brazil in 1962.

Levitsky, an expert on Latin American politics, said “almost the entire establishment of Lima is against him.”

The President-elect has never held office. He worked as an elementary school teacher for the past 25 years in his native San Luis de Puna, a remote village in Cajamarca, a northern region. He campaigned wearing rubber sandals and wide-brimmed caps like the farmers of his community, where 40% of children are chronically malnourished.

In 2017, he led the biggest teacher strike in 30 years in search of better pay and, although he did not find substantial reform, he sat down to speak with cabinet ministers, legislators and bureaucrats.

Over the past two decades, Peruvians have noticed that the past political experience and university degrees of their five former presidents did not help fight corruption. All former Peruvian presidents who have ruled since 1985 have been implicated in corruption charges, some imprisoned or imprisoned in their mansions. One died by suicide before being taken into police custody. The South American country cycled through three presidents last November.

Castillo recalled that the first turning point in his life came one night as a child when his teacher persuaded his father to allow him to finish his primary education at school two hours from home. This happened when both adults chewed on coca leaves to reduce fatigue.

“He suffered a lot as a child,” his wife, teacher Lilia Paredes, told the AP while doing the dishes at home. The couple has two children.

He was used to long walks. He would arrive in class with his peasant sandals, a woolen saddle on his shoulder, a notebook, and his lunch, consisting of sweet potatoes or tamales that would cool off with the hours.

Castillo said that his life was marked by the work he had done as a child with eight of his siblings, but was also marked by the memory of the treatment his illiterate parents received from the owner of that land. where they lived. He cried when he remembered that if the rent was not paid, the zamindar kept the best crop.

“Look at what you sowed, you held your belly, and I won’t forget it, I won’t forgive it either,” he said.


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