Far-left vice presidential candidate Dina Boluarte vowed to voters in Peru this week that Lima’s middle class would “cease to be” following her running mate Pedro Castillo’s win in the first round of that country’s presidential election.
Castillo, which few polls identified as a serious contender before his victory Sunday, received about 19 percent of the vote, more than any other candidate. When no candidate attracts 51 percent of the vote in the first round of Peru’s elections, the top two candidates go on to a runoff election. Castillo will face veteran conservative presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, who received 13 percent of the vote.
Castillo was polling at about three percent in March.
Boluarte, a lawyer running alongside schoolteacher and union organizer Castillo, used the victory this weekend to proclaim a Castillo victory would launch a state attack on Lima’s middle class in a larger comment on Peru’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Peru had three presidents in 2020: Martín Vizcarra, ousted by Congress; Manuel Merino, who resigned after deadly protests against Vizcarra’s removal; and, finally, current president and obscure bureaucrat Francisco Sagasti.
“This pandemic that is overwhelming the world and overwhelming our country, since we have an inefficient health [system] and a state incapable of prioritizing health, the comfortable Lima middle class will surely cease to be a comfortable middle class,” Boluarte said.
Boluarte also insisted her ticket would not moderate its Marxist message, which proposes extreme company nationalization and a major increase in government influence in daily life, against Fujimori.
“The message Pedro Castillo has taken to the nation is an objective message, a message the Peruvian people demand and this is the result,” the vice presidential contender said. “We will not sign on to any paths to change our proposals.”
Castillo’s Free Peru party published a policy platform that includes ideas Peru’s El Comercio described as “pure, old-school Castro-ism,” referring to the longtime dictator of Cuba. The top priority of the proposed new government would be to discard Peru’s constitution, passed under President Alberto Fujimori (Keiko’s father) in 1993, and replace it with a socialist document.
El Comercio, in analyzing the platform, quoted from one of the more radical sectors of it, discussing freedom of the press.
“Socialism does not advocate for freedom of the press, but for a press committed to education and the cohesion of the people,” the document read. “[Vladimir] Lenin had a great point when he said that true freedom of the press is only possible when it is liberated from the yoke of capitalism. Fidel [Castro] also said: ‘…mass media are in the hands of those who threaten human survival with their immense economic, technological, and military resources.”
The Argentine newspaper Clarín also notes Castillo has been accused of ties to the political wing of Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), a communist terrorist syndicate that besieged Peru in the 1980s and 1990s. Castillo was allegedly the head of a wing of a teacher’s union with ties to the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights, a political shell entity of Shining Path. Castillo has denied the correlation.
Shining Path ceased to be a menace to Peru under the now-imprisoned octogenarian Fujimori, and when he had appointed his teen daughter Keiko first lady of the country after wife Susana Higuchi divorced him and ran for president against him. Alberto Fujimori ordered the arrest of Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán and famously displayed him in a cage, wearing a cartoon prisoners’ uniform, to send a message nationwide that the group no longer posed a threat to Peru.
Keiko Fujimori’s extremely high profile in Peru serves to both benefit and damage Castillo. The younger Fujimori won a spot in the runoff election while out on bail; she was arrested in October 2018 on charges of accepting bribes from notoriously corrupt Brazilian contractor Odebrect. Father Alberto is also serving a prison sentence — 25 years for “crimes against humanity” allegedly committed during his presidency. Ex-wife Higuchi is among those who accused Fujimori of using state force to torture her. Currently 82, the elder Fujimori will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, though Keiko has suggested she would pardon him if elected.
Kenji Fujimori, Keiko’s brother and a former lawmaker, is facing a 12-year prison sentence on charges of corruption, though he has not yet been convicted. The allegations against Kenji followed his resignation from Keiko’s party, Popular Force, after her alleged ties to Odebrecht surfaced. Her party published videos allegedly showing Kenji attempting to buy votes. The scandal resulted in the resignation of then-president and Keiko’s former opponent Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, but not the end of the political careers of either Fujimori sibling. Vizcarra, ousted last year, was Kuczynski’s vice president and thus became head of government.