July 26, 2021

Pedro Castillo, the poor candidate for the presidential election

Pair Amanda Chaparro

Posted today at 6:00 p.m., updated at 6:33 p.m.

His public appearances are invariably the same: white shirt, straw hat typical of his region of Cajamarca (northern Peru) and giant pencil as an emblem, like a raised fist. This is how the left-wing candidate and teacher union leader, Pedro Castillo, 51, is looking for the presidency of the Peruvian Republic on June 6. Slightly at the top of the polls, according to the latest opinion polls, he faces Keiko Fujimori, leader of the “hard” right, who is contesting his third election.

Not much is known about him, apart from the broad outlines: his peasant origins and his profession as a country teacher, exercised for twenty-five years. He also led a teacher strike for a salary increase in 2017 which propelled him to the forefront of the national scene for a time. But this “outsider” of Peruvian politics remains an enigma, as his intentions have long remained vague and his speeches limited. Asked for an interview, the candidate did not wish to follow up.

Andean Cowboy

In its stronghold in Puña, a village perched 2,500 meters above sea level in northern Peru, a thousand kilometers from the capital, the few rare inhabitants celebrated for two days their passage to the second round on April 11 when, a few months earlier, it had barely 3% of voting intentions. “I cried for joy”, exclaims Lelis Paredes, his sister-in-law, a farmer. “There is immense hope” to see a country ” more just “ in which we “Finally cares about the poor”, confides one of his childhood friends.

Lelis Paredes (52), sister-in-law of Pedro Castillo, opens the doors of her house in the community of Chugur, Cajamarca (Peru), on May 25, 2021.
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Here, in this region of Cajamarca, an area of ​​the low Andes with green hills, we speak little. The agricultural lands are small, mainly devoted to the cultivation of potatoes and corn. Few mechanical machines, agriculture is done in the old fashioned way: we plow with a plow pulled by bulls.

The central figure of the village, like those in the surrounding area, is that of the “rondero”, the pillar of rural self-defense organizations, whose role is to ” impose order », Explains Oscar Alcalde, one of them. A sort of Andean cowboys, of which Castillo was a part and takes great pride. It was also on horseback that he went to his polling station during the first round, arousing the curiosity of the media.

In these lands swept by winds and sun, journalists are not really welcome. Since this first round, the national press has not ceased to shoot a red ball on the child of the country, accused of being a dangerous terrorist or an ardent Communist.

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