Three weeks after the vote that was to determine who will be the next president of Peru, thousands of people took to the streets of Lima on Saturday (26) in uncertainty about the country’s electoral future.
On the one hand, supporters of leftist Pedro Castillo, a candidate who, according to official figures, won 50.125% of the vote. On the other, right-wing voters Keiko Fujimori, who obtained 49.875%.
Castillo’s small advantage, equivalent to around 44,000 votes, has not yet been enough for the country’s electoral bodies to declare him president-elect, as authorities are still investigating the alleged frauds denounced by Keiko.
With giant banners and photos of their candidate, Castillo supporters marched through central Lima towards Plaza San Martín, one block from the headquarters of the National Election Jury (JNE), the body responsible analyze the contestation of the voting report. . Keiko, immersed in a speech according to which there had been fraud during the election, called for the revision of 300,000 votes and the annulment of 200,000 others.
“We are not Chavistas, we are not Communists, we are not going to take property from anyone, this is wrong. We are Democrats,” Castillo told his constituents.
About a mile away, thousands of Keiko supporters also waved “no fraud” banners and banners in Francisco Bolognesi Square, where a stage was erected to receive the Tory candidate.
In her speech, she said she just wanted electoral justice. “What we want is for all of these irregularities to be analyzed.”
As if the country’s polarization weren’t enough to exacerbate tensions, the ongoing electoral process plunged into further uncertainty when one of the four magistrates reviewing the ballots resigned his JNE post after disagreements with other members of the body.
In his resignation letter, he accused his colleagues of bias in rejecting Keiko’s first ten quashing requests. The candidate’s party, Fuerza Popular, then indicated that, given the resignation of the magistrate, the Peruvian government should ask the Organization of American States (OAS) for an audit of the electoral process similar to that carried out in Bolivia in 2019.
In a statement, the OAS said its envoys to Peru found no flaws in the conduct of the elections, reiterating a previous statement released earlier this month, shortly after Keiko made the first allegations of fraud.
This Saturday, a new magistrate was appointed to replace the dropout, which should allow the resumption of the revision work on Monday (28), according to a spokesperson for JNE. The president of the body, Jorge Salas, who had described the resignation as “delay in the work”, affirmed that “electoral justice cannot be paralyzed or blocked” and that “disruptive acts will not prosper”.
On Thursday (24), a series of leaked audios made the wait for the decision on who will occupy the presidency of Peru even more tense. In recorded phone calls, Vladimiro Montesinos, former head of Peruvian intelligence and right-hand man of autocrat Alberto Fujimori, Keiko’s father, offers to pay bribes to JNE members to favor the right-wing candidate .
The prosecution is investigating the case, as is the Navy, as Montesinos, who is serving a 25-year sentence at a naval base, made phone calls to a retired Fujimorist serviceman from prison, although he did not was allowed to call his partner. Four officers from the Navy’s penal service were dismissed from their posts on Saturday.
In the first of 17 phone calls, Montesinos asks retired commander Pedro Rejas to speak with lawyer Guillermo Sendón so that he can get in touch with three of the four JNE members. The intention would be to bribe them and prevent them from eventually proclaiming Castillo the winner of the election.
From the leaked conversations we can infer that the plan was to pay up to US $ 3 million (R $ 14.76 million) to “buy” the magistrates.
“There is no other [jeito], because it’s been too long, but you make dad or daughter understand [Alberto ou Keiko], I don’t know who you are talking to, that we are trying to help with a common goal, ”Montesinos told Rejas in one of the recordings.
“What’s in it for me? Nothing. I don’t care and I’ll never ask them for anything either. I’m just trying to help, because otherwise they’re screwed: the girl [Keiko] will end up in prison “.
If he loses the presidential race, as official data indicates, Keiko is set to stand trial for money laundering in the Brazilian entrepreneur Odebrecht’s illegal contributions scandal, in which four former Peruvian presidents were also involved. The candidate, who denies the charges, could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
During Saturday’s demonstration, Keiko tried to minimize the impact of the leaked recordings. “We listened indignantly to the audios, listening to a man’s voice [Montesinos] who betrayed all Peruvians. I reject this kind of innuendo, where we even see that it was crudely edited. “
Montesinos fell out of favor in 2000, when videos were released in which he appeared to offer bribes in return for opposition lawmakers’ support for Fujimori, who had just been re-elected for a third term. The former intelligence chief even fled the country to Venezuela, until he was arrested in June 2001 and subsequently sentenced to a 25-year sentence he is still serving.