Peru will choose its fourth president in less than a year on June 6, after being ravaged by one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, wracked by political turmoil, corruption scandals and exacerbated by poverty.
Described by many observers as a choice between the lesser of two evils, in the run-off from Pedro Castillo, a rural elementary school teacher turned hard-line populist, against Keiko Fujimori, a descendant of a widely hated authoritarian president. rule in the nineties.
Panic gripped the Peruvian elite in hopes of a Castillo victory, whose Marxist-led “Free Peru” political party is calling for large-scale nationalization, tax increases, a new “People’s Constitution” and import-substitution policies in the world’s second-largest copper producer.
Would you like to live in Cuba or Venezuela? Ask electronic billboards along a major highway in Lima, referring to Castillo. The euro fell to a historic low of 3.85 against the dollar last Wednesday as wealthy Peruvians scrambled to dump the national currency and move their savings abroad.
“I haven’t seen capital flight this bad here in two decades,” one senior businessman told the Financial Times.
The roots of the deep crisis in Peru go back years. Described by investors as a success story, not enough of its economic growth flowed to the poor. Successive corruption scandals have destroyed trust in the political and business classes and created chronic instability, leading to the existence of Peru three heads In just over a week last year. When the coronavirus hit, health services collapsed amid shortages of beds and medical oxygen.
Financial Times analysis Excess death data It shows that Peru has been by far the worst affected country in the world, having suffered more than double the normal death rate during the pandemic.
A strict lockdown last year plunged the economy into a deep recession but it failed to curb the spread of the virus, sparking outrage. Nearly a third of the Peruvian population now lives in poverty, according to official figures, an increase of 10 percentage points since the beginning of the pandemic.
Now, millions of downtrodden Peruvians are seeing a ray of hope in Castillo. Wearing a white Stetson-branded hat and waving a large inflatable yellow pencil to symbolize education, “El Profe” thrilled audiences across the forsaken regions of Peru with a simple but powerful message: “No more poor people in a rich country.”
At a recent campaign event in Villa El Salvador, a suburb crowded with modest brick houses that has sprung up around Lima in recent decades, Castillo walked the podium in debt to the country’s rulers.
“The traditional political class is filling their pockets with the wealth of this beautiful land,” he shouted. Peru is a very rich country and its people eat sand. . . We will give this country back to the people.”
The locals cheered him, waving flags and chanting in the choir, “Urgent and urgent Chief Pedro“.
“It’s time to change everything here,” said Maria Fernanda Garcia, who sells snacks nearby. “We’ve had enough.”
The task of trying to stop Castillo falls to Fujimori, the governor who was runner-up in Chaotic elections in the first round With 18 candidates, none of them have proven popular. Castillo won 18.9 percent and Fujimori’s tally of 13.4 percent was less than the number of blank and bad cards.
Survey data showed that Fujimori had among the highest rates of disapproval among candidates in the first round. She was forced to abandon her campaign trail in the historic city of Cusco last week after a hostile crowd pelted her with plastic bottles and rubbish.
already smudged Corruption allegationsHer unpopularity is amplified by her record as a confrontational leader in the previous parliament and by past conflicts with her family.
However, a former government minister told the Financial Times: “The panic has reached among the businessmen that they support Kiko without any conditions whatsoever.” They are trying to justify the unjustifiable for her election.”
The latest polls show stiff competition, with Castillo’s early lead significantly curtailed but they failed to accurately predict Peru’s first round and few are betting on the outcome.
Local journalists are complaining of intense pressure from media owners to demonize Castillo and manipulate the idea that he is a Marxist threat, something supporters of the candidate say is untrue.
“The Castillo model is not the Cuban or Venezuelan model,” said Pedro Frank, the university economics professor advising him. It is much more than a picture [former Bolivian president] Evo Morales.
Assessing the form of Castillo’s government is complicated by the candidate’s aversion to interviews and uncertainty about the role of Vladimir Cerrone, the Marxist leader of the Castillo party. Cerrone, a former provincial governor under investigation for corruption, has been an enigmatic figure throughout the campaign.
Optimists believe Castillo may soften his position in government, citing the example of Ollanta Humala, a leftist who ruled more moderately when he was in power from 2011 to 2016. But in the final stages of the campaign, Jose said, “Castelo gives no sign of moderation.” Carlos Saavedra, chief economist at Apoyo Consulting. “On the contrary, it has gone to extremes.”
As the election day approaches, Peru’s professional chapters express a sinking feeling that none of the candidates is well-suited to the huge challenges facing the country.
“It’s a struggle between failures,” said political analyst Alberto Vergara. “The one who fails the least will be the winner.”