The prospect of the son of illiterate Andean peasants becoming president while his rival screams fraud has shaken Peru’s entrenched class system and fragile democracy, unleashing a torrent of racism in the bicentennial year of the country’s independence.
With 100% of the official votes counted, leftist Pedro Castillo had 50.12% and an advantage of about 44,000 votes over his far-right rival Keiko Fujimori. But Fujimori has denounced fraud, contesting some 500,000 votes, calling for half to be annulled and forcing officials of Peru’s electoral board to re-examine the ballots, despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing.
Two weeks after the elections, which according to national and international observers were transparent, the position of Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the imprisoned autocrat of the 1990s Alberto Fujimori, has emboldened the extreme right, which has vowed not to accept the election results.
In a move that illustrates the inequality on the playing field, Fujimori recruited Lima’s most expensive law firms to nullify 200,000 votes, nearly all from poor Andean regions who voted overwhelmingly for Castillo.
“The tension has reached a breaking point,” said José Ragas, a Peruvian historian at the Catholic University of Chile. “The elite of Lima are not only trying to maintain power, it is not only that they do not want to recognize the victory of Pedro Castillo, but they are trying to cancel the rural vote.”
The election has unleashed expressions of racism that go beyond discrimination against Alberto Fujimori, of Japanese descent, who took office in 1990 and Alejandro Toledo, an Andean educated in the United States, who ruled Peru from 2001 to 2006.
In an ugly but not unusual case, the online news site Judges posted a private text message among middle-class white men in Lima discussing how the people of the altiplano should “starve” and called for the return of Alberto Fujimori’s alleged forced sterilizations, which mostly targeted indigenous women .
Other social media memes characterized Castillo as a donkey or said Andean people were too ignorant to be allowed to vote. They echo old “racist and classist attitudes rooted in the national and social debate,” Ragas said. But social media has given such comments a much larger audience, he said.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, criticized these expressions of racial hatred. “I repudiate hate speech and discrimination in all its forms, as it is unacceptable in any democratic society,” he said in a statement last week, while calling on Peruvians to accept the election result.
As Peru’s electoral board officials work overtime to re-inspect disputed ballots, social media and partisan news stations have helped spread fake news that fan the specter of totalitarian rule, violence, and even expropriations. massive if Castillo is declared the winner amid rumors of coup plots among the far right.
Apparently inspired by Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat in the US elections, Fujimori has led a series of marches against “fraud” by telling supporters at a rally: “The elections will change, dear friends.”
The three-time presidential candidate has already spent more than a year in pretrial detention, charged with receiving more than $ 17 million in illegal campaign funds and heading a criminal organization, and could face a 30-year jail term if convicted. She denies the allegations.
On Friday, the interim president of Peru Francisco Sagasti described as “unacceptable” a letter signed by almost a hundred retired soldiers urging the armed forces not to recognize Castillo if he takes office. “They want to incite the main commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force to break the rule of law,” he said in a speech to the nation.
As tension mounts, fueled by fake news, José Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director for the Americas, at Human rights observer, called on “all Peruvians, especially candidates, public servants and members of the security forces” to “respect the electoral results announced by the authorities.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism