One week before the presidential elections, in which the continuity or change of the neoliberal economic model, prevailing for three decades in the country, the professor and left-wing unionist Pedro Castillo has a minimal advantage, of two points, over the right-wing Keiko Fujimori, according to two polls released this Sunday. In this context of high uncertainty about what may happen next Sunday, the candidates met face to face in a debate that has aroused great expectations and that according to analysts could be decisive for one or the other to join in this section final the votes you need to get the upper hand and win the presidency. At one point Castillo called Keiko “head of a criminal organization”, referring to the judicial process against her for money laundering, criminal organization and obstruction of justice.
Speaking in a slow, calm, serene tone, Castillo opened the debate by presenting himself as a farm worker from humble origins and highlighting his work as a teacher in an Andean school. “I come with clean hands,” he said in his first speech. It was the first accurate hit. His rival, prosecuted for corruption and who among his close collaborators has officials from his father’s corrupt dictatorship, cannot say the same.
Keiko was more aggressive. From the start. It started with a stone in hand, literally. He raised a stone, which he said had been thrown at his entourage in the hostile reception he received upon his arrival in the city of Arequipa, where the debate took place, and accused his rival, without any evidence, of having promoted that violence. He repeated the speech of trying to discredit the candidate of the left saying that he promoted the class struggle because of his questioning of the inequalities that mark the country.
They began by discussing health and the pandemic. Both promised to vaccinate the entire country by the end of the year. “The pandemic has exposed the precariousness of the corrupt State and there are direct culprits,” said the candidate of the leftist Peru Libre, who recalled that Fujimorism has been in government for ten years and then has had a parliamentary majority “and health has never been scheduled as a priority.” . He emphasized the need to improve public health. He pointed out that health should be a right and not a service with the State in a subsidiary role of the private, as established by the current Fujimori Constitution. Keiko offered bonuses to the families of those who died from the covid and increased the salary of health personnel. “The covid is not solved with communism, with class struggle,” he said, to respond to his rival.
The second block was on the economy and employment. Castillo insisted on his proposal to renegotiate contracts with transnationals to improve the country’s income. In response to the campaign against him, he assured that his government will not expropriate companies, businesses, or savings. “Welcome private investment, but with clear rules, do not abuse the workers,” he said. Keiko offered tax benefits to the population, credits to small businessmen and increased taxes to large mining companies, something that his party has always opposed.
Keiko accused Castillo of being a chauvinist and he responded by reminding him of the forced sterilizations of more than 300,000 poor women during the Fujimori dictatorship. Keiko denied that it had been a state policy. Abundant evidence denies it.
“Here are two political leaders, a teacher and the head of a criminal network”, lCastillo announced when it came time to talk about corruption, reminding his rival of the criminal accusation against him for receiving from large businessmen, including the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, millions of dollars illegally to finance his campaigns in 2011 and 2016. And he concluded: “To talk about corruption you have to have moral authority. A corrupt person cannot speak of corruption ”. Keiko was thrown off balance. With nothing to say to Castillo about corruption, he attacked Peru Libre’s secretary general, Vladimir Cerrón, a former governor sentenced to suspended prison for incompatible negotiation. Castillo told him that the candidate was him and not Cerrón.
In the bloc of human rights and social policies, Keiko spoke about the problem of water and land titling, but nothing about human rights. His father, former dictator Alberto Fujimori, is serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity. Keiko has announced that she will pardon him. Castillo pointed out that the country cannot go back to the past and that his government will not be a dictatorship, in clear allusion to the Fujimori dictatorship of the 1990s.
According to a survey by the Institute of Peruvian Studies (IEP) published this Sunday, Castillo reaches 40.3 percent and Keiko 38.3 percent. A week ago, the IEP put the candidate who proposes to change the neoliberal model up ten points: 44.8 versus 34.4 percent. Two months ago, at the beginning of the campaign for this second round, that advantage reached twenty points.
An Ipsos poll, also released this Sunday, gives Castillo the same two-point lead, 45.1 versus 43.1 percent. A week ago, he was giving 45 against 40.7 percent, always in favor of the candidate on the left.
The daughter of the imprisoned Alberto Fujimori approaches her rival driven by a massive campaign in her favor and the support of the mainstream media, which intends to pass her off as a defender of democracy and freedom, leaving aside the long authoritarian trajectory of Fujimorism, and fear his rival announcing a supposed “communist dictatorship” if Castillo wins.
The dirty war against Castillo has gone so far as to accuse him of being a terrorist, awarding him alleged links with a small marginal group, political heir to the Maoist armed group Sendero Luminoso., defeated almost thirty years ago, something repeated with insistence and denied with the same insistence by Castillo.
This weekend, a right wing desperate for its possible defeat recruited for this campaign the Venezuelan Leopoldo López, whom it brought to Lima to shoot Castillo. He repeated the script against Chavismo and announced a convulsive scenario like the Venezuelan one if the Peru Libre candidate wins the elections.
Despite the million-dollar campaign of discredit and fear against him, and also mistakes and some inconsistencies in his campaign, which have hit him, Castillo has been able to resist and stay first, although now with a minimal advantage. The result of next Sunday has entered the field of uncertainty.