By Muskan Goel
Published On: September 17, 2021, at 19:53 IST
Peru, a country in the Southern America, also the second largest copper producing country in the world is currently undergoing an intense political turmoil since the past few years. There has been a change of four presidents and two parliaments in five years. Eventually in the presidential elections held in April-June 2021, Pedro Castillo a left-wing rural teacher-turned-politician, came out as the victorious candidate defeating his right-wing opponent Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori (in office 1990-2000). Castillo held the office in July 2021.
Due the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy of the country is severely affected. In 2020, the Peruvian economy contracted by 12.9% owing to the recession induced by the pandemic. The economic contraction produced massive job losses and eroded the public finances increasing the poverty level to almost one-third of the population and eliminating the gains of a decade.
The domestic currency (sol) depreciated (Diminish in value over a period of time), affected by uncertainty and the fall in the interest rate.[i] In November, the situation was complicated further by uncertainty generated by the domestic political crisis, as the country cycled between three presidents in the same month.
The newly elected president with no prior political experience has two major hurdles to overcome one being is to mend the economy and bring it back to prosperous terms. Second is to deal with the divided nation, split between the supporters of his reforms and the opponents.[ii]
Who is Pedro Castillo?
Pedro Castillo is a former school teacher aged 51 years of age. He climbed the ladder of success four years ago, i.e. in 2017, when he led a strike for better pay including thousands of other teachers. He belongs to the family of farmers and has no prior political experience. In the presidential elections he gained support from the country’s rural and indigenous population, by publicizing the phrase “Never again a poor man in a rich country!”[iii]
His ideologies are of bringing social reforms in the country. Castillo has promised to use the revenues from the mining sector to improve public services, including education and health, whose inadequacies were highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Castillo took references from the governing models of other countries but claimed the he would not copy any other county’s model but would create one that would guarantee legal and economic stability to the masses.
One of Castillo’s major promises was to replace the current constitution of Peru which was enacted in 1993 under Alberto Fujimori. Castillo claimed to have a document created which had the colour, smell, and flavour of the Peruvian people.
Castillo is rarely seen without the traditional white, broad-brimmed hat of his Cajamarca region, and a huge inflatable pencil, the symbol of his Marxist Free Peru party which also represents his background in education.
Being a leader Castillo has been compared to numerous other leaders and often called as their shadow, or the following their footsteps. Some see Castillo as Salvador Allende (former president of Chile), while others name him as the resemblance of Arvind Kejriwal (associated with the Aam Aadmi Party of India, and currently holds the office of Chief Minister of Delhi) due to the similarities in their ideologies, as well as the similarity in their situation, both being an “outsider”.
Why did Castillo hold the Office of President Late?
Although Castillo won the 2021 presidential elections in the month of June, by approximately 44.000 votes more than his opponent, which constitutes less than 1% of the winning votes. But he acquired office in the month of July, because his election was contended by his right-wing opponent Keiko Fujimori, claiming that there was large scale election fraud and that major number of votes were misappropriated. But she couldn’t succeed due to lack of evidence.
Major number of Peruvians who either belonged to Castillo’s party or did not belong to his party but supported and trusted him camped in front of the Electoral Tribunal in Lima, Peru’s capital, for more than a month to await the declaration of results.
However, The European Union, United States, and 14 electoral missions stated that the voting was fair. The U.S. called the election a “model of democracy” for the region.
What is the Difference between Left-Wing Politics and Right-Wing Politics?
Left wing politics and right wing politics are two conflicting ideologies that differ from each other on the grounds of their application and outlook.
Left wing talks about social equality and is liberal (favourable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs). People, who are called as leftists or those who belong to the left wing, predominantly support progressive reforms, which seek to gain greater social and economic equality. They religiously follow policies that involve reducing income inequalities. They believe in the supreme role of the government and that society will progress well if the government plays an active role. The left supports the idea of secularism i.e. the state and religion must be separate from each other.
Right wing politics revolves around the belief that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable. They are conservative (disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change). People, who are called as rightists or those who belong to the right wing, generally support the policies that involve low taxes and less control on businesses by the government. They believe that the best results for society arise when individuals access their rights and liberties with lesser control from the government. Part of the rightists does believe that religion has a greater role in the society.
However, both the ideologies trace their origins back in the years of the French revolution (1789-1799). During a debate in the hall of National Assembly, the anti-monarchy revolutionaries were settled at the left side of the hall, whereas the supporters of monarchy were seated toward the right. This is how the ideologies came in existence, those who are against any kinds of hierarchy are known as the left wing, while those who support certain kinds of social orders and hierarchies are known as the right wing.[iv]
How has the Covid-19 Pandemic Affected the Country and its Economy?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the entire world; each and every country has been affected with the novel coronavirus. Let’s look at the insights of Peru, as affected by the novel coronavirus. Due to the inadequacy and loop-holes in the health services of Peru, the country recorded the highest global per-capita death rate. In order to fill the gaps so created, Castillo has planned to increase revenue from the mining and fund public services including health and education.
The economy of the country is severely affected. In 2020, the Peruvian economy contracted by 12.9% owing to the recession induced by the pandemic. The economic contraction produced massive job losses and eroded the public finances increasing the poverty level to almost one-third of the population and eliminating the gains of a decade. The domestic currency (sol) depreciated (Diminish in value over a period of time), affected by uncertainty and the fall in the interest rate.
The pandemic has given difficult hardships to the newly-elected president as he does not have any prior political experience. Post his election he had to deal with two major obstacles, out of which one owed its existence to the pandemic.
What is the actual Political Situation of Peru currently?
Currently, Peru experienced the presidential elections in April-June2021, where Pedro Castillo, a left-wing rural teacher-turned-politician with no prior political experience, has been elected as the president. Post his election as the president; he faced the division of the nation into his supporters and opponents. He also faced an economic crisis owing to the recession induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He encountered the division of the nation into his supporters and opponents because of the social reforms he intends to bring in the country. Casting himself as the man of the people he undoubtedly knows the difficulties faced by the masses as well as the poor. He intends to work on improving the conditions of poverty which got intensified by the pandemic, along with eliminating corruption in the country. It is allegedly believed that most of the former presidents of Peru have been convicted with corruption allegations.
As reported on August 1, 2021, a good number of Peruvians marched on the roads of Lima, Peru’s capital, condemning the newly appointed Prime Minister Guido Bellido as a ‘terrorist’ and an accomplice of the Shining Path (a Maoist rebel group that killed thousands of Peruvians in the 1980s and 1990s with the purpose of seizing power and authority).[v]
As discussed, Peru is undergoing a political turmoil. It seems that the democracy of Peru is in danger and on the verge of collapsing, if not attended immediately. The nation has already started to drift into two groups, i.e. the supporters and opponents of the actions of the newly elected president Pedro Castillo. Moreover, the economy of the country is terribly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and needs immediate attention. Castillo being an outsider to politics is absolutely inexperienced and has to deal with two major hurdles at the same time. The Peruvians are constantly indulged in rallies and discussions. It is believed that the next few years are going to be crucial for Peru as well as for the president Pedro Castillo, because of Castillo’s inexperience. While improving the conditions of the poor, Castillo might encounter an elite backlash at him, or he might succeed in his ideo
[i] Figures about economic downfall of the country due to COVID-19 pandemic (Last visited on: 14.09.2021)
[ii] Introduction referred from: Article ‘Explained: What Left leader Pedro Castillo’s narrow win means for Peru’ by Indian Express: (Last visited on: 14.09.2021)
[iii] Facts about Castillo: Article ‘Pedro Castillo: The primary school teacher who became Peru’s president’ by BBC News (Last visited on: 14.09.2021); Article ‘Outside in’ by Indian Express (Last visited on: 14.09.2021)
[iv] Difference between Left-wing Politics and Right-wing Politics (Last visited on: 14.09.2021)
[v] Article ‘Peru protesters rally against Pedro Castillo’s new government’ by ALJAZEERA (Last visited on: 14.09.2021)