Pedro Castillo, 51, elected president of Peru, was known in the country until the elections for two episodes. The first led a national teachers ‘strike in 2017 at the head of Conare (National Reorientation Committee), Peru’s main rural teachers’ union.
The second was the rapid rise to first position in the first round of the Peruvian elections, through a leftist program, favorable to Chavismo, and proposals to rebuild the country, including the creation of a new Constitution and the dismantling of institutions such as the Mediator, whom he regards as a corrupt body. For the same reason, he also advocates reform of the judiciary.
This victory comes 19 years after his debut in politics, in 2002, when he was a candidate for mayor of Anguía, a small village in the Cajamarca region. He lost and since then he has never applied again.
Castillo shares with Keiko Fujimori, the rival defeated in the presidential election, a conservative vision. It’s against same-sex marriage, abortion and what he calls “gender ideology”. He says the state must support Peruvians “in the economy, in the streets, at home and at school,” as he said during the last presidential debate.
He also aligns himself with the daughter of former Peruvian autocrat Alberto Fujimori in refusing entry into the country of more Venezuelan refugees, who he says “are stealing jobs from Peruvians”.
Castillo was born in Tacabamba, in the province of Chota, in the north of the country. At school, where he arrived after walking 2 km at an altitude of over 2,000 meters, he was not known to be good at subjects, unlike when he was helping his father harvest potatoes. and wheat.
Today, he still lives in Chota, with his wife and two children, and teaches Spanish and history to secondary and primary classes. He has worked at the same college for 25 years, and some of his former students are part of his official circle of security and political coordination.
With his father he learned to celebrate General Juan Velasco Alvarado, a leftist dictator who ruled the country between 1968 and 1975. Populist, he distributed land, and one of them ended up in the Castillo family . Alvarado, hero of many leftists in the 1970s, also had another admirer: former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (1954-2013).
If he is on the conservative side with regard to civil rights, the elected representative defends the overhaul of the state and the country’s economic model. He wants a new constitution and says he will close Congress if there is any opposition to the proposal. He also says that the economy must be built “from the bottom up” and mentions, among the areas that can be nationalized, mining, a major source of Peru’s export products.
Changing the Charter, however, requires the support of two-thirds of the unicameral Parliament, something almost impossible in a political spectrum as fragmented as that of the country. Castillo’s party, Perú Libre, will have 37 of the Casa’s 130 seats. The second force will be Keiko’s Força Popular, with 24 seats, followed by Ação Popular (16) and Aliança para o Progresso (15), both on the right. Leftists Somos Perú and Podemos Perú will each have five members of Congress.
In the campaign, Keiko tried to label Castillo as “Chavismo in Peru”, but despite the support of Nicolás Maduro —dictator of Venezuela and heir to Chávez— and Evo Morales — former president of Bolivia—, elected officials sought to avoid both the comparisons as well as the nods of the head of the two leftists.
Castillo and his party have ties to Movadef, the political arm of the Sendero Luminoso guerrilla group, and many of its members are active or militant for the organization. Sendero and Movadef have a strong presence in the department of Cajamarca, where the new president was born.
While one of Keiko’s weaknesses lies in the corruption accusations, those of Castillo are linked to the leader of his legend, Vladimir Cerrón, who has been convicted of embezzlement and criticized for his connection to the Sendero.
Castillo has always denied any connection with the Senderos and claims to have been part of the “campesinas rounds”, paramilitary groups that helped the Peruvian army defeat the Sendero, in a conflict that left more than 70,000 dead between 1980 and 1993 Even outside the law, “ronderos” have been tolerated by all governments to date because they serve the needs of remote communities in central Peru.
In many parts of the country there is only the presence of the “round campesinas”, without the police or social workers working in the areas, in a manifestation of the bankruptcy of the Peruvian state. In some areas, they are heavily armed and clash with army security forces.
In a speech very appealing to rural areas, Castillo says politicians in the capital, Lima, don’t know how life develops inside and often date back to when, he says, he was collecting firewood. heating, cooked and never stopped. work, except at school or at bedtime.
This rhetoric is however fought by the Fujimoristas of the interior, who are still very numerous.
It was only with time that Fujimorism became a movement linked to big cities. In the interior and in the regions where the Sendero operated, Alberto Fujimori was much admired, precisely because, in his administration, the Senderistas were defeated. In the 1990 elections, he was the only candidate to visit the corners of the country where the politicians in Lima did not go, and during his rule there were subsidies to the rural population, which, today, Castillo – and not the autocrat’s daughter – promises to do.
The victory will change the life of Castillo, who has never lived in a big city and still lives in a village, in Chugur, on a farm with a simple house with several rooms, where the food continues to be cooked in the stove. wood.