Socialist Pedro Castillo wins elections in Peru, but coup fears grow as Fujimori falsely claims he was the victim of fraud
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AMY GOOD MAN: This is Democracy now! I am Amy Goodman.
Fears are growing in Peru that supporters of right-wing presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori are staging a coup to prevent her rival, socialist teachers’ union leader Pedro Castillo, from seizing power after winning the June 6 elections. With all the votes counted, Castillo has a 44,000 vote lead, but Fujimori claims the fraud without providing any proof. She calls for the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of votes, mainly from poor Andean regions. Castillo is the son of Andean peasants. He grew up in a remote village in a poor region. Fujimori is the daughter of the imprisoned former dictator Alberto Fujimori.
More than 80 retired military officers on Friday urged the Peruvian armed forces not to recognize Castillo as president if he is officially declared the winner. The retired officers called on military leaders to, quote, “act with rigor” to “remedy” the election, saying Castillo would be a commander-in-chief, I quote, “illegal and illegitimate.”
It comes as Keiko Fujimori struggles to stay out of prison herself. A public prosecutor recently urged a judge to send her back to prison over an ongoing corruption case.
Michelle Bachelet, the former Chilean president, United Nations high commissioner for human rights, urged Peruvians to accept the election results. She also condemned the racist attacks against Castillo and voters in the Andes. She said, I quote: “I reject hate speech and discrimination in all its forms because they are unacceptable in any democratic society. “
Over the weekend, thousands of people took to the streets of Peru for rival protests. It is a supporter of Pedro Castillo who talks about Lima.
MARINA CRUZ: [translated] This march is to fight against the coup that Ms. Keiko Fujimori is targeting. All of these leaders are taking advantage of the circumstances to say that the election was a fraud. Our provincial brothers and sisters have come to ask that their vote be respected.
AMY GOOD MAN: We are now going to Lima, Peru, where we are joined by José Carlos Llerena. He is a Peruvian educator and activist, he recently co-wrote a room with Vijay Prashad for Expedition of peoples titled “The coup d’état taking place in Peru”.
welcome to Democracy now! It’s great to have you with us, José Carlos. If you could start by talking about the importance of Castillo’s victory and who exactly he is?
JOSE CARLOS LLERENA: Hello, Amy. It is a pleasure to be with you and with everyone who is watching the program.
Well Pedro Castillo is a rural teacher, a former peasant patrol – we call here rondas campesinas. And he is a union leader of the teachers’ union in Peru. In 2017, he led a demonstration, a huge demonstration, which took almost free months of rallying and protesting, and he overthrew – refused two ministers for this demonstration. Thus, Pedro Castillo is a popular leader. He is a popular leader, because in the first round of this presidential election, most of the 48 of his voters say they vote for Pedro Castillo because he is like them, an ordinary guy, a Peruvian worker.
And also it has a message of sovereignty and patriotism. Pedro Castillo has said or has said that the resources here in Peru must be used for Peruvian needs.
And also, finally, Pedro Castillo have this characteristic of social justice. And such a message, for example, in education, in health, right now is so relevant in the midst of the pandemic that we are suffering here in Peru.
So, when you told me about the importance of Pedro Castillo, I must say that this is the first time, in [200 years] of republic, where Peruvians choose for a popular candidate or a popular leader, a left leader. But I think the best way to approach this case of Peru and Pedro Castillo and Peru Libre is not in the contradiction of right and left, but more in the contradiction of poor against rich, Lima against regions. And in the latter part of the campaign, Pedro Castillo’s campaign was full of hope, but Fujimori’s campaign was of fear and threat, as you can see right now.
That is why people were on the streets on Saturday to defend the vote, more than 70,000 people in the streets of Lima and several hundred more across the country.
AMY GOOD MAN: So, now let’s talk about Fujimori, the daughter of the imprisoned former dictator Alberto Fujimori, whose brutality is well known around the world. If you can talk about the approach she takes – clearly, straight from Trump’s playbook – to just say, without proof, that she won?
JOSE CARLOS LLERENA: Yeah, like you said, well, the rally, the protest on Saturday, was against the coup, because the coup is going on right now. It’s a fact. However, this is a hit with many combined elements of other experiences.
As you said, in the early days this coup has all the hallmarks of the Trump scandal of the last election there in the United States: stop the count or have an army of big law firms in order to invalidate votes. Thus, Fujimori’s coup d’etat has the features of Trump, but also the Bolivian features, because the field of law here is in the arena of an electoral process as in Bolivia. And also, at this moment when – we can appreciate a feature like the Brazilian parliament coup against Dilma Rousseff, because while all of Fujimori’s provisional initiatives to invalidate the votes fall, are declared invalid and unprecedented, they try do it through Congress, through a coup in Parliament as well.
And also, there is the characteristic of the typical law that we know here in Latin America in order to prevent popular leaders from participating in popular elections, like Ecuador with Correa or Argentina with Cristina Fernández. At present, there is a legal tactic against the executives of Perú Libre, the Peruvian party whose founder is Doctor Vladimir Cerrón, a doctor based in Cuba. So we have all the hallmarks of the coup and the law in this Fujimori coup threat.
AMY GOOD MAN: This is the Socialist presidential candidate who, according to 100% of the vote, holds one by more than 44,000 votes, Pedro Castillo, speaking to his supporters earlier this month after voting in the second round of the presidential election.
PEDRO CASTILE: [translated] I hope that today, beyond the elections, Peru must understand that we cannot move our country forward if we do not unite. Our country needs to get out of many situations, and the pandemic has demonstrated it. We will do our utmost to give health to the Peruvian people, education to the Peruvian people, tranquility and well-being with justice.
AMY GOOD MAN: So it’s Pedro Castillo. If you, José Carlos Llerena, can talk about what the elite are so afraid of? He’s standing there with his signature straw hat. He is native. He wears a mask in these times of COVID. What are they so afraid of?
JOSE CARLOS LLERENA: Well I think there are two ways to approach it. The first is that people are afraid and afraid because Fujimori’s campaign has been a campaign of fear, of media terror – of terrorism by the media, with fake news trying to link Pedro Castillo with this tale of communists killing people, eat kids, and all that McCarthyite strategy. This is one way of approaching it. And that explains very well how the distance between Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori narrowed as we were close to June 6, because all the media were spreading this message of fear, terrorism and everything we know.
But there is another structural reason in our case in Peru, and must be with the colonial and racist approach. During 200 years of republic, the Peruvian oligarchy ruled everything here in Peru – everything – the media, the executive branch, the judiciary, the parliament. They controlled everything. And it is a Peruvian white oligarchy that has this hatred of people, of indigenous peoples, of hatred of peasants, of hatred of anything popular. That’s why, even following these textbooks or color revolution texts from Gene Sharp and all kinds of others, the popular movement – it’s weak right now; it’s not strong – but the popular movement that they’re promoting right now, they have flags that celebrate the European invasion here in Latin America – the Spanish flag and the colonial flags and all that kind of symbol.
So, I think those are two reasons why there is so much fear right now in Peru. One, the people for media terrorism, but also the oligarchy are spreading their fear because they are losing control of a country they think they own and run. But this cannot go on any longer.
AMY GOOD MAN: In this last minute that we have, the death toll in Peru of COVID per capita is the worst in the world. Based on population, the death toll per capita is more than double that of Brazil. What effect has this had on your country?
JOSE CARLOS LLERENA: Sorry? I didn’t hear your last –
AMY GOOD MAN: The effect that COVID has had on your country?
JOSE CARLOS LLERENA: Yes, like you said, we have the highest rate in the world. But I think the pandemic also had an impact on this election, because the pandemics have shown that the neoliberal project imposed here 30 years ago by Alberto Fujimori, the father of Keiko Fujimori, has failed, has completely failed. We don’t have health – we don’t have health insurance. We have no school conditions. We have nothing. This is why in the first wave of COVID many doctors, many nurses die, many poor people die. There is a lesson plan here for dealing with the pandemic, the pandemic crisis. But I think the pandemic has helped highlight or shed light on this failed neoliberal project, and that’s why people vote for Pedro Castillo, because he represents change, social change.
AMY GOOD MAN: We want to thank you very much for being with us, and we will continue to follow what is happening in Peru. José Carlos Llerena, Peruvian educator, member of the Peruvian organization La Junta and representative of the ALBA Movimientos Peruvian chapter. His item for Expedition of peoples, we will link to “The coup d’état taking place in Peru”.
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