The highly political fragmentation outlined at the time – with around a dozen presidential candidates and Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori jumping into the runoff as first – place finishers with less than 20 percent of the votes cast-escalated in less than two months to a unique, dubious polarization. The purely mathematical stalemate could be interpreted in such a way that, in some Latin American countries, neither the progressive nor the conservative sectors succeed in convincing voters of their political and socio-economic concepts and goals without complicated obstacles. However, as exemplified in 2018 with the ban on Luis Inácio Lula da Silva’s candidacy and the associated election of Bolsonaro and now with the style of Fujimori’s campaign management, the apparent, false polarization can only be brought about with the use of defamatory angles and media-controlled intrigues.
Late on Sunday evening, Pedro Castillo of the Peru Libre movement claimed 50.2 percent of the vote and his challenger, Keiko Fujimori of the Fuerza Popular party, 49.8 percent. Whereupon Castillo’s supporters poured into the streets of Lima to celebrate the election victory; in truth, a stalemate that could not be tighter and could not yet be assessed as a consolidated majority of votes. However, the narrow result, whether in favor of Castillo or Fujimori, heralds difficult times for the immediate future of Peru, whose so-called, especially urban, white, serious corruption-accepting elite is not willing to stand idly by any even so modest welfare policy transformation of the state, as the murder attack of the end of May suggested.
The assassination and the artificially manipulated polarization to the vote gate
On the weekend of May 23-24, two weeks before the runoff, Peruvian and international media reported a strange attack in the hinterland of Peru. According to Peruvian police Chief César Cervantes, an attack with firearms claimed the deaths of at least ten men, six women and two children. The crime scene, the statement said, was in an " area dominated by drug trafficking, with bars and brothels, in close proximity to the banks of the Ene River, in the San Miguel del Jan administrative district, in the province of Satipo." The police pictures taken at the scene showed cartridge cases and a brochure with the logo of the Communist Party of Peru, the official name of the Maoist-oriented guerrilla organization “Sendero Luminoso” (“Shining Path”), which became known in the 1980s and was almost liquidated militarily.
In this brochure, the police said, residents were urged not to vote for presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori. According to unconfirmed information, remnants of the terrorist group have been operating in the area for decades as armed protectors of cocaine producers. The police “bought” crime scene and the apparent evidence at their face value, and the media ensured their dissemination. That the “Shining Path” was a crazy, cold-blooded to inhuman terrorist gang, there is little doubt even among exaggerated skeptics. But should their alleged “remains"have been so blinded in their calculation that they did not prevent the vote for Ms Fujimori with the assassination, but rather stimulated it?
Immediately after the attack the BBC wondered” how the elections in Peru could be influenced by the massacre." The reaction of the right-wing candidate was not long in coming. “Pedro Castillo and his group are suspected of proximity and links to terrorism,” insinuated Castillo’s challenger Keiko Fujimori. The left-wing presidential candidate responded vigorously on his Twitter account:
Mi solidaridad con las familias de las 18 víctimas en el cobarde ataque ocurrido en Pichari, VRAEM. Condeno enérgicamente este atentado terrorista e insto a la justicia a que aplique todo el peso de la ley. No vamos tolerar ningún acto de violencia.— Pedro Castillo Terrones (@PedroCastilloTe) May 24, 2021
For Orazio Potestà, Peruvian expert on drug terrorism, the attack “completely disrupted the campaign”. In the vicinity of the crime scene, said Potestà, intimidation of the population and abstention would occur during the run-off election. In the rest of Peru and in the capital Lima, the attack could spark political debates. So that " in the field of debate, one of the two candidates will appropriate the anti-terrorism issue. Es (Note F. F.: the assassination) could be a favor for the candidate who offers" concrete and proven solutions " against terrorism. … And at this point, Keiko Fujimori has the advantage of having appropriated the anti-terrorist discourse and proposals that were tested in the 90s by her father’s government and that had shown some effectiveness – a discourse that Castillo, however, cannot offer," Potestà estimated.
Until a few months ago, “anti-Fujimorism”, characterized by aversion and disgust, still prevailed in Peru as a democratic basic attitude against state terror and corruption, so in particular with the candidacy of the left, indigenous village teacher Pedro Castillo, the mood tilted in favor of a long-believed dead, but artificially revived, confused anti-communism. In other words, the unsettled middle class sought contradictory refuge in Fujimorism, which it detested.
Keiko Fujimori," heiress " of the dictator and the trappings of criminal activities
Keiko Sofía Fujimori Higuchi, so the full name of the candidate, is more than known in Peruvian politics. At a young age, she took on a bizarre but useful role in the government of her father, the former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori, and was elected the youngest “First Lady” of Latin America at the age of 20 instead of her divorced mother. Keiko Fujimori never made a secret of paying homage to her father’s corrupt regime of violence and accepting his “inheritance”.
The Fujimoris came from impoverished Japanese migrants from Kumamoto who settled in Peru in the 1930s. Keiko’s father Alberto studied agricultural sciences and began his political career in 1990 as an outsider and leading candidate of the Cambio 90 movement, which he founded a year earlier. An illustrious unknown in the political scene at the time, the “Chino” initially sought support from fringe groups in Peruvian society, small businessmen and some evangelical churches, all far from the political tradition of nationalist and progressive parties.
As a presidential candidate, Fujimori received almost 30 percent of the vote in the first round of voting in April 1990 and not only secured the run-off election, but also a portion of reputation because he competed against the world-famous writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who shone in the global spotlight in 2010 as a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Hard to believe, but with the support of left-wing organizations, trade unions and the nationalist APRA party, Fujimori defeated Vargas Llosa in the runoff election with 62.32 percent of the vote; an embarrassing defeat for the glorious novelist, who said goodbye to Peru shortly afterwards and has lived in Spain ever since. Irony of history: Now Vargas Llosa warned the world against “threatening totalitarianism” and campaigned for Keiko Fujimori in the run-off election.
After another election and victory in 1995, Alberto Fujimori ruled the Andean Republic of Peru for almost ten years, but fled to Japan in 2000 after serious charges and was officially removed from office.
Fujimori had already imposed radical liberal “economic adjustment measures” at the beginning of his first mandate, dismantled the social functions of the state and, in accordance with the recommendations of the Washington Consensus, elevated the market to the dominant regulatory and decision-making body. That is, trade liberalization, the creation of a “competitive” exchange rate, the privatization of enterprises, as well as the elimination of obstacles to foreign direct investment. During his tenure, Peru fought two wars: against neighboring Ecuador and against the Peruvian guerrilla “Shining Path”. Characterized by an authoritarian character, Fujimori was responsible for several acts of political arbitrariness, including his “self-coup” of 1992, with which he dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Court under pressure of great social discontent. The measure enabled him to consolidate an authoritarian regime guilty of countless human rights violations.
In 2009, Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison for brutal human rights abuses known as the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta cases, a sentence that was repeatedly ratified in 2015. The first case concerns the murder of 15 people, including an 8-year-old boy, during a party allegedly attended by members of the Shining Path, which was excluded by the courts. In the second case, Fujimori was accused of abduction, murder and burial in anonymous graves of eight students and a professor of the National University Enrique Guzmán y Valle on July 18, 1992. In addition, he was accused of murdering six people in the district of Pativilca, Barranca, in 1992. Court documents showed that the intelligence department he commanded, “Grupo Colina” – which shadowed and militarily fought the Shining Path and the revolutionary movement Túpac Amaru (MRTA) – was involved in both operations.
The calculated protection of the terrorist group Colina became Fujimori’s fatality and motive for indictment. The accusation was “disregard for the right to life, the right to personal integrity, judicial security, legal protection and freedom of thought and expression”. After almost seven years of free movement in Japan, Fujimori came to Chile, whose judiciary, however, agreed to the extradition request of the Peruvian judiciary. Since then, Fujimori has been in custody, but was pardoned by his former opponent, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, in 2018; a highly controversial decision that sparked violent protests in various parts of the country and, together with the corruption allegations against Kuczynski, formed a reason for his loss of popularity, culminating in his resignation.
The arrest of her father Alberto seemed to be an occasion for her daughter Keiko to present herself as a “strong woman” in politics. However, she was investigated for corruption and the Fujimori heiress was initially sentenced to 30 years and 10 months in prison. She was imprisoned three times and released thanks to mafia-like gears in the judicial apparatus – including the lubrication of a well – known prosecutor. But Prosecutor José Domingo Pérez, of the Peruvian branch of the Brazilian anti-corruption task force “Lava Jato”, launched an unflinching investigation against the politician, who is accused in the judicial case “Cocktails” of receiving illegal funding for her two previous presidential campaigns in 2011 and 2016.
The prosecutor’s thesis is that the prospective presidential candidates, including Keiko Fujimori’s challenger Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, “laundered” more than a million US dollars, which came from the “Structured Operations Department” of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and were settled with fictitious contracts and overvalued orders.
The payments were confirmed by Jorge Barata, a former representative of Odebrecht in Peru, during his interrogation in Curitiba, Brazil. He had two instructions for $ 500,000 each, a total of $ 1 million, disbursed to Jaime Yoshiyama and former Fujimori Minister Augusto Bedoya Cámere. When asked, Marcelo Odebrecht, former CEO of the construction company, also stated that he was sure that money was donated to Keiko’s campaign, as well as that of the other candidates who wanted to run in the 2011 parliamentary elections.
Given this and other evidence, the prosecution maintains the hypothesis that Keiko Fujimori leads a criminal organization that uses the Fuerza Popular party as a facade. It was led by a hard core that was ready to seize political power in 2011 and 2016.
In the history of Peru, there is no precedent for electing a presidential candidate to be investigated. As defense lawyer Rafael Chanjan Documet warns, Keiko Fujimori, if elected, could be the first scandalous case of a proven criminal in the presidential palace.
Pedro Castillo, the indigenous
Pedro Castillo, an indigenous man of the conservative left, is the candidate of Peru Libre. He surprised in the first ballot and was the most elected candidate with 19 percent of the vote. If Castillo wins in the end, Peru could enter a new era after 30 years of market liberal politics, various media such as French radio have speculated in recent weeks. It would be the victory of the center and the south of Peru, where the majority of the indigenous populations live and work, who, unlike the dominant elites of Lima, identify with Castillo.
The peasant Castillo, born into poverty in Chota, 1,000 kilometers from Lima, who is riding a horse to vote, has at least managed to unite anti-Fujimorism beyond the indigenous vote. Castillo, a primary school teacher with a master’s degree in Educational Psychology, gained national prestige as the leader of the Teachers:Interior Union of Peru (Sutep), which led a strike for adequate salaries and school equipment in 2017.
Fujimori supporters accuse Castillo not only of being a “communist”, but also a “terrorist”, because he was also active in a human rights protection group that calls for the release of former members of the Shining Path. Castillo counters the insinuations that he was active as “Rondero”, a peasant self-defense group that, conversely, decisively fought the Maoist-inspired Shining Path.
One of the phrases that accompanied Castillo’s presidential campaign is: “Never again be a poor person in a rich country!“The interior forms Castillo’s political base. Lima and the North Coast are conversely considered the establishment and vote for Keiko Fujimori. But the rest of the country, the Andean world, votes for Castillo.
What are Castillo’s government projects?
The left-wing candidate advocates a series of structural reforms that could mean a daring transformation of Peru’s ultra-liberal and anti-social economic model. Its strategy is aimed, among other things, at the nationalization of strategic sectors such as mining, gas and oil. Although not averse to private sector activities, Castillo, like Evo Morales in his first election campaign, calls for them to be used “for the benefit of the majority of Peruvians”. The left-wing candidate also calls for a large increase in budget spending on agriculture and education, he considers with sharp criticism the current system of private pension funds (AFP) taken over by Chile, which should be replaced again by a national pension system. In addition, the teacher proposes to “disable” the Constitutional Court of Peru and equip it with new representatives elected by the citizens; a mechanism of direct democracy that, according to political scientists, could give new impetus to hierarchical and corrupted institutions. And ultimately, Castillo says, Peru needs an independent foreign policy and “should cease to be a country subject to the United States.”
On the one hand socially progressive, on the other Castillo is considered “gender conservative”. “It is economically revolutionary, but socially very conservative,” Carlos Meléndez, academic at the University of Diego Portales and Peruvian researcher, assesses, confusing “social conservatism” with gender conservatism. Castillo, in fact, spoke out against abortion or gay marriage, he is conservative on issues such as the fight against citizen insecurity and supports the strong hand in terms of public order. But Castillo speaks from the heart of the Peruvian countryland.