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Hitherto almost unknown in politics, the candidate of the radical left Pedro Castillo, 51, will face this Sunday, June 6 in the second round of the Peruvian presidential election the candidate of the populist right Keiko Fujimori, 46, well known because she is the daughter of the former autocrat Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) and is running for the presidential election for the third time.
It is Lilian Paredes, the wife of Pedro Castillo who welcomes us in the patio of the family house, a traditional house located on a hill which dominates Chugur, a hamlet of a hundred souls lost in the middle of the Andes, in the Cajamarca region, more than 1,000 kilometers from the capital Lima.
“It’s a small country house, but very warm. I was born and raised here in Chugur and my husband an hour and a half away. Her parents are farmers, like mine, she says. As you can see here, we grow corn, potatoes, peas. And by there we have our animals: cows and chickens. “
It is in this rural and agricultural environment that Pedro Castillo lives with his wife and their two children. Both teach in the province of Anguia, one of the poorest in Peru, while the region is home to South America’s largest gold mine. For years, the teacher has seen his students arrive at school hungry.
“My husband realized that our rulers were doing things wrong and he wanted to change things,” says Lilian Paredes. Starting with its sector, education in rural areas. Pedro Castillo therefore first got involved in the union struggle. In 2017, he rose to prominence by leading a vast strike movement followed by more than 200,000 teachers for nearly three months to demand an increase in the education budget.
But with few results, as Victor Cabrera, teacher and old friend of Pedro Castillo explains: “Education remains an abandoned sector. So we professors said to ourselves that if we weren’t represented in high political circles, that would never change. “
Based on this observation, during a national assembly of teachers’ representatives, Victor Cabrera and his colleagues proposed to Pedro Castillo to be their presidential candidate. “He had shown us that he could be a good leader: worthy, honest and loyal to the people, because unlike the others, he did not negotiate with the government for money to interrupt the strike”, remarks again the teacher.
Approached by several parties to be their presidential candidate at the end of 2020, professor and trade unionist Pedro Castillo finally responded to the invitation of Peru Libre, a left-wing Marxist-Leninist party. If elected president, Castillo has vowed to convene a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution and nationalize Peru’s natural resources to fund education, health and poverty alleviation. He often cites the experiences of Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador as examples.
Economically leftist, this Catholic, on the other hand, is conservative on societal issues. In particular, he opposes abortion and marriage for all, and is in favor of strict policing and strong regulation of the media.
While his opponents accuse him of being a communist who, in case of victory, would make Peru a second Venezuela, a large part of the population, especially in poor and rural areas, identifies with this provincial teacher of humble origins. who, unlike his opponent, is not associated with corruption. What could make him the next president of Peru