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‘Change is coming’: Peru’s Castillo faces divided nation after electoral battle

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Leftist Pedro Castillo addresses supporters at the headquarters of the “Free Peru” party after the Peruvian electoral authority announced him as the winner of the presidential election, in Lima, Peru, on July 19, 2021. REUTERS / Sebastian Castaneda / File Photo

LIMA, July 20 (Reuters) – Peru’s Pedro Castillo has won a long and tense presidential election battle. He must now heal the wounds of a deeply divided nation, torn between support for its socialist reforms and fear of upsetting the Andean nation’s traditional mining policy and exploitation.

Castillo, a wild-card candidate for a Marxist party, was proclaimed the winner of the June 6 run-off on Monday night after six weeks of wrangling over the sharp outcome. He beat his right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori by just 44,000 votes.

The former teacher and peasant son, who is due to take office on July 28, has garnered tremendous support from the poorest rural Peruvians, tired of the political status quo amid growing poverty and inequality.

Its rise has rocked Peru’s political and business elite, fearing its promises to reformulate the constitution and take a much larger chunk of mining profits from the world’s leading companies. 2 copper producer.

“The people have spoken, the people shouted and Pedro Castillo is finally our president,” said Danny Castillo, an independent supporter of the leftist candidate after his election victory was confirmed on Monday.

“The change is coming for Peruvians, the change in the constitution is coming, no more poverty, Peru is rising,” he said.

The president-elect, known for the wide-brimmed hat he usually wears, called for a truce with Fujimori after the controversial election race and hinted that his ministers will come from a variety of political backgrounds.

“We appeal to all the experts and technicians, the most distinguished and committed people in the country,” Castillo told reporters on Tuesday, his first comments on his potential firm since his victory was confirmed.

“We are structuring a work team and I see that there are also people who are interested in contributing to support this government, from all political backgrounds.”

Fujimori – the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, accused of human rights abuses – said she would accept the result, but repeated her claim, without any evidence, that Castillo stole votes to win and called on his supporters to mobilize to “defend democracy.”

“TIME FOR DIALOGUE”

Castillo says he wants to increase spending on health and education by fundraising through higher mining taxes. His plans resonated in a country with the highest per capita death toll from COVID-19 and wide gaps between rural and urban wealth.

However, his detractors, including famous Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, have claimed he will drag Peru into authoritarian communist models, citing Venezuela and Cuba.

Castillo himself has played down the comparisons and brought more moderate economic advisers into his team in recent weeks.

“We are not going to copy the model of any other country,” he said Monday evening. “We will create real economic development, ensuring legal and economic stability.”

Rating agency Fitch said on Tuesday that Peru was placed for a period of uncertainty as Castillo had yet to set key policy priorities, while the impact of the pandemic was likely to boost public spending and d ” increase short-term debt levels.

The outlook for Peru’s sovereign rating, now “BBB +” with a negative outlook, would depend in part on how the Castillo administration manages “strategic sectors such as mining, gas and communications, its attitude towards private contracts and its budgetary policy parameters, ”he added. .

On Tuesday, the Sol currency weakened about 0.30%, while the Lima Stock Exchange Index (.SPBLPSPT) was up 0.27% as some key mining stocks rose.

“It’s time for dialogue,” the National Mining, Petroleum and Energy Company (SNMP), which represents the industry’s leading companies, said in a statement, one of the first comments. sector since the second round.

“Today more than ever, we need authorities with leadership and a vision for the future who are firmly committed to undertaking the reforms necessary to revitalize our struggling economy, to face the health crisis. and guarantee the full rule of law, ”he said.

Peru experienced one of the worst political crises in its history in November last year, with three heads of state in a week after a battle between the presidency and Congress, as well as violent protests that left two dead.

Castillo’s party will have 37 lawmakers out of the 130 members of the unicameral parliament. Fujimori’s People’s Force Party will have 24 seats, the second largest bloc.

Report by Marco Aquino; Editing by Adam Jourdan, Aurora Ellis and Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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