Rise to be born with me, brother.
On June 6, the presidential elections in Peru were held in a runoff election where the left-wing candidate, Pedro Castillo, won with 50.12% of the votes against the right-wing candidate, Keiko Fujimori, who obtained 49.87%. As of today, the National Jury of Elections has not officially proclaimed the winner due to the 242 nullity requests and challenges filed by his opponent, with whom he maintains a difference of only 44,058 votes. The various international observers of the election have indicated that it took place in complete normality. In the first round of elections held on April 11, a total of 18 candidates participated, resulting in a dispersion of votes in favor of Castillo, a rural teacher with a specialization in educational psychology and a union leader from the north of the country, who obtained 19.09% of the votes, followed by Keiko Fujimori, with 13.36%. The latter, a businesswoman with studies in administration in the United States, is the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori. She has been a congresswoman and twice a candidate for president in 2011 and 2016, being defeated on both occasions by a narrow margin. Today she insists on questioning the results. She is facing charges of fraud and money laundering, among others, with the risk of ending up in jail. The urban population – mainly concentrated in the capital, Lima, which with 11 million inhabitants concentrates practically a third of the population – voted mostly for Keiko, as did the northern coast and part of the Amazon region, while the rest of the country voted for Castillo.
Peru has a territory of 1,285,216 km2, a population of 33 million inhabitants, with 70 ethnic groups and more than 60 languages. "Tahuantinsuyo" was the most important and richest culture that dominated a large part of South America between the 11th and 15th centuries - until the arrival of the Spaniards - known as the Inca empire, a word that designated the 13 rulers it had from its capital, Cuzco.
The archaeological and historical wealth of the country is immense and dates back to more than three thousand years before our era, as is the case with the Caral culture, considered the oldest on the continent. Machu Picchu, in Quechua, means Old Mountain and was the sacred city of the Incas, described in the poem by Pablo Neruda, Alturas de Machu Picchu published in the Canto General, in 1950. Located at almost 2,500 meters above sea level, it is considered one of the great treasures of humanity and was recognized as such by UNESCO in 1983. Between the XVI and XIX centuries, during the colonial period of Spanish rule, Lima was the most important Viceroyalty due to the amount of wealth it contributed to the crown. The 300 years of Hispanic presence were reflected, among other things, in the mestizaje (mix) of architecture and colonial art, but also in the cuisine that enjoys well-deserved fame.
The Peruvian economy was severely affected by the armed actions of guerrilla groups such as the Maoist-inspired Shining Path, which destabilized the country between 1980 and 2000, leaving approximately 70,000 dead and disappeared. The concentration of wealth and widespread poverty, as well as the lack of investment in education and infrastructure in rural areas, problems more or less common to most Latin American societies, contributed to the deterioration and radicalization of sectors that were favored by geography to hide and develop armed actions in an attempt to seize power. The country was finally pacified by the government of President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) who did not hesitate to go outside the rule of law and break the democratic framework to put an end to terrorism. This led him to escape and resign from the presidency from Japan by fax on November 19, 2000. Today he is serving a prison sentence in Peru on charges of murder, kidnapping and corruption.
After this turbulent period, Peru entered a period of relative political stability and growth with the introduction of economic reforms, the opening of the economy to foreign investment, privatization of public companies, signing of trade agreements and stimulus to the export sector of raw materials, fishing and agro-fruit. Thus, the average growth rate between 2000 and 2019 reached 4.4%, improving macroeconomic indices and reducing multidimensional poverty from 20% in 2006 to 12.7% in 2019, according to indicators provided by the UNDP. The Covid-19 pandemic, as everywhere in the world, severely affected the economy in 2020, producing a drop of 11.1% and increasing public debt, as a percentage of GDP, from 26.7% in 2019, to 34.5% in 2020. Peru's annual per capita income fell last year from $7,027, in 2019, to $6,126, according to World Bank figures.
Economic growth has not brought political stability to Peru. Since 2001, with the election of former president Alejandro Toledo, successive presidents have ended up fugitives, such as Toledo himself, who is in the United States accused of corruption; suicides, such as former president Alan García, or serving sentences, as in the cases of former presidents Ollanta Humala, Pedro Kuczynski and Martín Vizcarra. The person who succeeded the latter, Manuel Merino, remained only 5 days in office and the parliament appointed the current president, Francisco Sagasti, on November 17, 2020. In this context, the elected President Pedro Castillo will not only have to face the consequences of the plague that is ravaging the world and which in Peru has exceeded 200 thousand deaths, but also, as he has stated, to implement a reactivation plan and an economic program of hard reforms based on what he has called "popular economy with markets" as opposed to the social market economy, which he describes as neoliberal. He has indicated that upcoming July 28, when he takes office before the Congress - on a symbolic date because Peru will also celebrate its bicentennial -, he will announce the call for a constituent assembly to write the "first constitution of the people". His economic conception includes the nationalization of basic wealth, oil, gas, communications, pensions, review of trade agreements and other similar measures.
What is happening today in Peru is similar to the leftist processes that have taken place in other countries of the region and that seek to put an end to an economic conception that has generated growth, but not development. Privatizations and concentration of wealth have grown much faster than distributive policies. Peru has six billionaires on the Forbes list and projections indicate that, because of the pandemic, it will probably regress to levels of inequality similar to those of 2010. There will be many challenges for a president-elect who will not have a parliamentary majority and who is at odds with the president of his party, Vladimir Cerrón, a doctor and founder of Perú Libre, a party that embraces the theses of the influential Peruvian theoretician, Carlos Mariátegui, who took up an important part of Marxist thought. Cerrón has declared as irrenounceable the commitment to call for a Plurinational Constituent Assembly for a new constitution. In addition, Castillo does not have a strong team, has announced measures, but has no government program or defined method and uses the classic rhetoric of the leftist discourse very close to populism. Undoubtedly, those familiar with Peruvian politics point out that Castillo is an honest person, a sort of political craftsman who recently had his international baptism in a telematic meeting with the Puebla Group, an Ibero-American forum that brings together politicians and academics. There he met with the current presidents of Argentina and Bolivia, Alberto Fernández and Luis Arce, respectively, and with the former presidents of Brazil, Dilma Rouseff, Bolivia, Evo Morales, Colombia, Ernesto Samper and Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, in a frank conversation led by Chilean politician Marco Enríquez-Ominami. Later, the meeting was extended with participants such as the former president of the Spanish government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Maite Mola, of the European Left Party and other personalities in a call to defend democracy, popular sovereignty in Peru and Castillo's victory. The consolidation of the president-elect's victory may be good news for the ongoing attempts to revive the currently paralyzed South American integration process known as UNASUR.
In the next few days, the National Jury of Elections must make official the triumph of Pedro Castillo. From 2016 until today, the country has had 4 Heads of State including the current one, who took office on November 17, 2020. On the other hand, Keiko Fujimori is contesting for the third time the second round of elections. The first, in 2011, she lost by 2.71 points against former President Humala and then, in 2016, by a difference of only 0.24% against former President Kuczynski. This time the difference was 0.25% and unless the highest electoral court declares otherwise, he will have to accept a third defeat. The unicameral parliament is composed of 130 congressmen and in this last election, 10 political parties were represented. Castillo's party, Peru Libre, has 37 seats and Keiko's party, Fuerza Popular, has 24. The rest are diluted in small groups, which will make governance very difficult, as has been the case so far. Keiko is credited with bringing down the Humala and Kuczynski governments, so Castillo, without strong parliamentary backing, will have to learn to govern in the midst of the economic crisis, the pandemic and Keiko's shadow.