Peru’s presidential election could trigger sharp class battles.
The result of the vote was on a knife-edge as Socialist Worker went to press.
Former school teacher and union leader Pedro Castillo had edged slightly ahead of right wing Keiko Fujimori on Tuesday morning. But the outcome remained unclear.
Castillo is a self-proclaimed socialist, belonging to the Free Peru party. His campaign slogan was, “No more poor people in a rich country.”
He was one of the leaders of an 80-day teachers’ strike in 2017 that demanded better salaries and working conditions.
Castillo has pledged to renationalise some of the mining industry as well as rewriting the constitution to be a “people’s constitution”. His message appeals to the millions of rural residents—who often live in terrible poverty.
It’s the country’s rural towns that are hit hard by Covid-19, suffering from a lack of intensive care beds and medical supplies.
Days before the election, Peru upped its estimate of Covid-19 deaths from around 70,000 to 180,000.
The terrible impact of the virus has led to strikes and protests from workers, including an indefinite strike by miners at the Shougang Hierro Peru mine.
The prospect of a Castillo victory has already made the elites scared.
In stark contrast, Fujimori—the leader of the Popular Force party—is the choice of the rich.
Her father is former brutal dictator Alberto Fujimori. In 2009 Fujimori was found guilty of murder, kidnap and embezzlement and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
He has also been accused of complicity in the forced sterilisation of thousands of mostly poor and indigenous women.
And Keiko Fujimori herself has spent most of the last two years in pre-trial detention for alleged money laundering. She has promised that if she wins the election she will free her father and continue his legacy of free market reforms.
A win for Fujimori would be a disaster for working class people who are still suffering from the terrible consequences of her father’s time in power.
But whichever candidate wins the struggle on the streets must continue.
The right and the bosses will try all means to bend Castillo to their will or remove him.
And Castillo will be under pressure to compromise. He also holds some conservative views such as opposition to abortion, sex education in schools and same-sex marriage.
And lessons must be learned from the presidency of Ollanta Humala who came to office in 2011. Humala was also seen as a socialist but moved steadily towards the right during his time in office, imposing austerity and neoliberalism.
Peruvian workers and the poor need to mobilise in the streets and workplaces now to push Castillo for change if he is elected, and to fight Fujimori if she wins.