Who is Pedro Castillo?

The exit poll for Peru’s April 11th presidential elections sent shockwaves throughout the country. Leftist candidate Pedro Castillo of the ‘Peru Libre’ party came first, despite not featuring among the top five in any polls prior to the vote.

Castillo, who participated in the election as an outsider candidate, is from the Andean region of Cajamarca. He led nation-wide teachers strikes in August 2017 which ended in a partial victory, with numerous concessions forced from the neoliberal government of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. He has promised to accept no more than a teacher’s salary if elected President.

His policy proposals include a mix of anti-neoliberal economic policies and socially conservative positions on gender and LGBT issues. Proposals include the nationalization of mining, oil, and gas, and he has said that the state must take a leading role in the economy, with state industries that can compete with the private sector. He characterizes this model as a ‘people’s economy with markets.’

“Currently, we live in a capitalist system supposedly renovated, in a neoliberal economy imposed since 1993 and which has gone against the interests of the large majority of the country. To change this sad reality we have to propose radical economic adjustments,” said the leader of Peru Libre.

Castillo’s program coincides with the rest of the Peruvian left in his plan to form a constituent assembly to overhaul the Fujimori era constitution. The aim would be to build a plurinational state with participation of the social movements which he says will form his new government.

The candidate has differentiated himself from the traditional left on social issues where he has come out against marriage equality and what he refers to as ‘gender ideology,’ though he says the issue of abortion would be left to the future constituent assembly. This is in stark contrast to the other leftist candidate in the race, Veronika Mendoza, who shares many of Castillo’s economic plans, but placed a heavy focus on her progressive stances on gender and other social issues. Despite placing a strong 3rd place in the 2016 election, she placed 6th in Sunday’s exit poll.

On the issue of Venezuela, Castillo has also taken a different line. Whereas Castillo has stated that Venezuela ‘is a democracy,’ Mendoza has repeatedly condemned the government of President Nicolas Maduro in a desperate attempt to avoid being labeled a ‘Chavista,’ under the assumption that it would be electorally damaging.

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