Peru: Castillo reaching the presidency. What then?

Pedro Castillo en Chota

By Alejandro Bodart and Vicente Gaynor

A month after the elections were held and all the maneuvers that tried to ignore the popular will that gave Pedro Castillo the victory, the National Elections Jury (JNE) finally announced that it will be able to officially proclaim the winner of the presidential elections before July 15. Will the proclamation take place? What direction will Castillo take?

JNE spokesman Luis Alberto Sánchez affirmed that 27 of the 270 requests that were submitted to the JNE have been reviewed and rejected as unfounded, and that he estimates “that the proclamation will not be delayed beyond the first fortnight of July.” If the proclamation is made, the defeat of the coup attempts by the Fujimori right, which has been trying by all means at its disposal to change the results of the election, will be consummated.

Since former unionist and rural teacher Pedro Castillo won the presidential runoff against right-wing Keiko Fujimori by 44,000 votes on June 6, the regime closed ranks behind the daughter of the former dictator, who denounced fraud and promoted a series of maneuvers to try to ignore the people´s will and snatch the presidency.

In addition to her requests to annul hundreds of polls in rural areas, Fujimori sought to encourage judicial and military intervention. Former president of the Supreme Court of Justice Javier Villa Stein presented legal action to try to annul the second round. Former general and elected Congressman Jorge Montoya also spoke out publicly calling for the annulment of the elections. He was supported by an association of retired soldiers who called on the high command of the army to ignore Pedro Castillo´s victory.

Later, former prosecutor Luis Arce resigned from the JNE, seeking to delay the body’s procedures in order to prevent Pedro Castillo from being formally declared winner before July 28, which would allow the right-wing majority Congress to impose an interim president and press harder for the annulment of Castillo’s win. Finally, a delegation from Keiko´s team travelled to the OAS in Washington to request the intervention of U.S. imperialism.

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Several representatives of the conservative Peruvian aristocracy, including some were harsh critics “of the dictator Fujimori and his daughter,” who until recently, like writer Vargas Llosa, have argued that votes from the mountainous region should be ignored “because the information that would allow those citizens to evaluate objectively does not reach them” or that new elections should be called because “the result was too close,” like the APRA officially declared.

But all these attempts were insufficient against the mobilization of the Peruvian people, who remained in the streets in defense of their democratic decision and pressed union leaders to threaten to call a General Strike if Castillo is not proclaimed. Faced with this panorama, various sectors of the regime and even U.S. imperialism have abandoned the accusations of fraud, leaving Keiko isolated. According to Lima newspaper La República, in rejecting the 27 lawsuits legitimately presented, the JNE “categorically excluded the possibility of there having been an attempted fraud, as claimed by Fujimori.”

The Peruvian people will need to remain alert and mobilized to ensure their democratic will until the end, but everything indicates that Castillo will be proclaimed president-elect in the coming days and will take office on July 28, the bicentennial of Peru’s independence.

To the center or to the left?

However, the question today is how much of his proposals for change he will be able to materialize from the presidency, and what is he willing to do to achieve them. In Congress he will have a right-wing opposition majority commanded by the same Fujimori movement that leads the coup attempts today. The hegemonic media express concern about his administration´s governability while the business, ecclesiastical and judicial establishment as well as international organizations pressure him to moderate his speech and put aside the more radical measures that he promised in his campaign.

The question that will soon be answered is whether Castillo will rely on the force of the people´s mobilization to overpass Congress and the rest of the weakened Fujimori regime´s institutions and impose the fundamental changes that are needed to lift workers and the people out of poverty, or adapt to the regime itself as other presidents have done in the recent past.

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Castillo is not a revolutionary socialist and he never planned to end capitalism. His reactionary positions on gender and diversity issues are known. But he won the support of the peasantry, the youth and the poor, becoming the surprise of the first round, with radical proposals such as the call for a Constituent Assembly to change the neoliberal constitution of 1993 that dictator Alberto Fujimori imposed, the nationalization of industries key, a strong progressive tax reform and general salary increases, among others. But already in the second round he relativized many of them, emphasizing that he will respect the existing constitutional order and that business need not fear because he will seek private investment.

This week, he confirmed that one of his first initiatives when he takes office will be to promote a constituent assembly: “Coming to power we will not be deaf or dumb, as we have always criticized. For this reason, on July 28, beginning our message to the nation, we are going to put before Congress the people´s first request: the immediately scheduling of the installation of a national constituent assembly to draft the first Constitution of the people.”

The problem that he will immediately run into will be the refusal of Congress to call for a truly Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly, the only way to discuss the fundamental changes that are needed to lift the people out of poverty. If this happens, he will have to decide whether to overpower that cave of bandits relying on the people´s mobilization, or to “respect the institutional order of the current Constitution,” which has a Fujimori majority, as he has been declaring recently.

The commitment to the institutions of the regime that he expresses in his declarations also makes the most radical economic aspects of his program impossible. In a rally held on June 26, he said: “We are democratic, we respect Peruvian governance and institutions and that is why we are here. We will be respectful of this Constitution and in this context I ask Dr. Julio Velarde that his work at the Central Reserve Bank be permanent and coherent.”

Then he reinforced this idea on Twitter: “Our commitment is to maintain fiscal balance and improve the quality of public spending, promote investments and respect the independence and autonomy of the BCRP. For this reason, we desire to ratify Dr. Julio Velarde as president of this important institution.”

Julio Velarde Flores has been Chairman of the Board of the Central Reserve Bank of Peru (BCRP) since 2006, when he was appointed by former Aprista president Alan García Pérez. He had already been in charge of the BCRP from 1990 to 1992 when Alberto Fujimori governed and during 2001 to 2003 with Toledo. In recent years, he kept the economic policy of the Central Bank stable during the brief and convulsed governments of Kuczynski, Vizcarra, Merino and Sagasti.

Velarde comes from the ranks of the right-wing Partido Popular Cristiano (PPC), and is a kind of incarnation of the neoliberal regime imposed by the Fujimori constitution. He has been a guarantor of profits for multinational corporations and is responsible for the policies that have plunged the Peruvian people into poverty for decades. It will prove difficult for Castillo to achieve his electoral promise of “no more poor people in a rich country” with the continuity of Valverde.

In turn, Pedro Franke, who was an official of the Central Reserve Bank of Peru (BCRP), the World Bank and the governments of Presidents Alejandro Toledo and Ollanta Humala, and sounds like Castillo’s possible Minister of Economy, said in an interview published in the newspaper Gestión, that changes can be made in the country without changing the 1993 constitution and that it was not necessary to change its economic chapter, in which the capitalist plunder of Peru is legalized.

Even in matters of international politics, despite the fact that during the campaign he said that he would break with the country’s ties to imperialism, Castillo has revealed that he is looking for his foreign minister among former officials of previous governments, all of them defenders of the Group of Lima and the U.S. led Pacific Alliance.

We know that all these ambiguities have generated many debates in the force that supported him as presidential candidate.

Castillo finds himself in the dilemma that many other reformist leaders have found themselves in. On one side they have the people mobilized, on the offensive, supporting them and demanding radical changes; on the other, they have a miserable capitalist regime of oppression and exploitation, beaten and on the defensive, but which will do everything to defend its privileges and perpetuate itself in power. The people´s great problems cannot be solved without defeating the regime, there is no middle ground. The people have the strength to do it, but they need their leaders to be willing to. Castillo´s first signs are not good in this regard. The International Socialist League we will stand with the Peruvian people, to defeat every coup attempt by the right wing, to confront every obstacle that stands in the way and to demand that Castillo fulfill his promises. We call on the youth, who have been at the forefront of the mobilizations in recent years, the women and the working people to trust only in their forces, which are invincible when they are deployed in their full magnitude, to achieve all the changes and rights they deserve.