The general elections in Peru are the perfect example of the phenomenon that defines our political times in pandemic, the virus of polarization. Voters are caught in the difficult decision of electing one of the two worst candidates they have had in 200 years of independence.
In an emotionally and economically divided country, a teacher and rural unionist with zero political experience confronts the daughter of a convicted ex-dictator in the electoral ring; a socialist and mariateguist party against a neoliberal-anticommunist force and a proposal of Latin American inspiration (there are those who see the hand of Marxism) against a pro-North American one (“Yankee imperialism” for others).
The story touched the shoulder of a primary school teacher with limitations and virtues and placed him in front of a business administrator with political silence and educated in the United States, daughter of the imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who served as first lady of Peru in 1994 to 2000 and congressman for Lima from 2006 to 2011, leaving an authoritarian obituary with his seal.
The candidate and the proposal that is located to the left of the Peruvian drama has some similarities with the Mexico of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Pedro Castillo (Cajamarca, 1969), the “communist” who represents “the forgotten people” and who seeks to “change” the “conservative” vs. Keiko Fujimori (Lima, 1975), who faces a complaint for 30 years in prison accused of having received illegal contributions from Odebrecht, in the style of the “corrupt conservatives” in Mexico.
As the now Mexican president did at the time during his campaign, Castillo has remained the symbol of the rejection of corruption, the possibility of change and could join the new Latin American tradition of populism. Both speak simple language, they can be contradictory, they organize their teams in a somewhat disorderly way and the shadow of fraud has accompanied them.
Unlike López Obrador, Castillo is an improvised neophyte candidate for a party, Peru Libre, whose founder, Vladimir Cerrón, is being investigated for alleged crimes of corruption and money laundering. But Cerrón’s figure has affected him little in his campaign.
In reality, there are not many in Peru who know who Castillo is, but for the ruling class, he is the “cuckoo” (rogue, evil) who brings the communist disaster of Venezuela and Cuba to the Andean country. The political ideology prepared by Cerrón and presented when registering Castillo’s candidacy, in effect, carries outdated proposals.
But, although the Cajamarca candidate later presented another document where he does not speak of “popular economy” but of mixed economy, for the political and business class, Fujimori continues to be the lesser evil, the good of the film, despite his sorry past.
The new text, entitled Peru to the Bicentennial, could have been elaborated by – and for – the 4T in Mexico. The state would have an important regulatory role to prevent abuse in private businesses, for example. “Monopolies and oligopolies will be more actively regulated, and private enterprise will be encouraged; National entrepreneurs who invest in Peru, pay their taxes and respect the rights of workers and the environment will be recognized. They will be our allies to move the country forward ”, reads the text.
Among the measures proposed to reactivate the economy, the main one is to promote investment in public works, such as the fitting out of roads and irrigation canals, hospitals, sanitation networks, schools and others, to promote employment in construction and related industries. It also calls for “facilitating access to credit for the most vulnerable businesses, curbing unfair competition in the importation of textiles, footwear, dairy products and others.”
And it mentions the need to “nationalize our wealth”, but not as an immediate consequence of a failed renegotiation of contracts with the extractive industries, as indicated in the previous ideology, but as a system to increase collection and set new tax rules in this economic sector.
The most recent survey by Datum, a company financed by the powerful El Comercio Publishing Company, places the candidates in a virtual technical tie, with 45.7% intention to vote in favor of Castillo and 43.9% of Fujimori, with which the former would have lost votes in recent days.
This slight decrease in the rural teacher comes after a massacre of 16 people in the VRAEM -the “drug valley” in central Peru-, attributed to the Shining Path, which has been used by means that favor the Fujimori candidate and has fueled the campaign of terror against Castillo. Another parallel with the violence registered in today’s electoral campaigns in Mexico.
In an attempt to prevent her possible “authoritarian liberalism” or his “authoritarian chaos”, both candidates signed a citizen proclamation, drawn up by the Transparency Civil Association, the National Human Rights Coordinator, the Union of Evangelical Christian Churches of the Peru and the Episcopal Conference. The oath seeks to protect democracy, guarantee respect for human rights, promote the fight against corruption, ensure freedom of expression, comply with universal vaccination against covid-19, among other wonders.
But for many, on one side and the other, the proclamation is a dead letter, in addition to the oath of both candidates before Cardinal Pedro Barreto.
The Peruvian outlook is undoubtedly bleak and uncertain; for some it even has overtones of civil war. The relatives of each of the two candidates always speak according to the “moral superiority” of the adversary. And there are hysterical voices, more on the pro-Fujimori side than on the other. Anyone who asks for reflection, calm and an informed vote is sometimes branded a “communist.”
That of Peru – a country of some 33 million inhabitants – is a plague-dominated election after 180,000 deaths from covid, according to an analysis of statistically abnormal deaths from the National Death System, not the official figure that is slightly less of 70,000.
The virus also uncovered the catastrophe of a dysfunctional system where the plague brought a considerable increase in poverty and extreme poverty. The vast majority – if not all, especially those who live in “Peru Profundo” – someone close to them has died in an unimaginable health crisis, and they have seen their working life destroyed. It is therefore not uncommon for the most radical extremes to have faced each other in this environment.
For the few who have managed to maintain a certain sense of humor in this drama, the radical antagonism has reached such a level that even the next recipe by renowned Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio must have a political undertone. And in gastronomy with that tone there is also a resemblance to today’s Mexico.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.