Pedro Castillo, a former Primary school teacher of 25 years, has been sworn in as Peru’s new president following a tense presidential race.
Raised in one of Peru’s poorest regions, it was the support of rural voters which propelled Castillo to his surprising victory, having beaten 17 other candidates in the first round of the election, including the favourite amongst the business classes Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori.
Rarely pictured without his broad-brimmed white hat traditional to the Cajamarca region or a large inflatable pencil, the symbol of his Marxist Free Peru party, Castillo was seen as the champion of the people. His campaign was built upon promises of ending poverty, the slogan “Never again a poor man in a rich country!” featured heavily throughout his campaign. Castillo said the country had not been governed in the interests of the average Peruvian and said ‘drastic change’ was needed, controversially promising a new constitution with ‘the colour, smell, and flavour of the people.’ He will, however, be faced with a divided Congress where the proposal could falter.
Castillo has taken control of a country badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the highest death rate per capita in the world and an economic collapse leaving millions in poverty. New planned proposals including greater funding for education and healthcare through increased taxation of the mining industry, although he has abandoned his more radical approach of nationalising mining.
Opponents of Castillo have painted him as a left-wing extremist, with his election victory by just 44,000 votes facing several challenges by the Fujimori campaign. Although he has softened many of his initially radical approaches, critics fear the new President could destabilise one of the most politically stable countries in the region.