Peru: Keiko takes page from Trump playbook

pedro castillo

One week after Peru’s close and hotly contested presidential run-off election, far-right candidate Keiko Fujimori appears to be taking a tip from the Donald Trump playbook. The official results from the National Office of Electoral Processes (ONPE) give Fujimori 49.8% of the vote, and 50.2% to her left-populist challenger Pedro Castillo. However, the results only become official when they are certified by the National Jury of Elections (JNE)—and Fujimori is calling for some 200,000 votes to be nullified as fraudulent, more than enough to throw the race in her favor. On June 11, the JNE said it would extend the deadline for filing challenges to votes, which had passed two days earlier. However, it reversed this decision hours later, in response to a public outcry and accusations by Castillo and his supporters of an attempted “coup d’etat.” (Peru21, June 12; DW, June 11; BBC Mundo, June 10)

Since Castillo’s clear lead became apparent, Fujimori has been charging “systematic fraud” in the vote count in rural areas where Castillo has widespread support. She is now demanding that the JNE again reverse its decision. “If the Jury analyzes this, the election will be flipped, dear friends,” she told supporters at a rally in Lima on June 12. “I’m the sort of person who never gives up.” (Al Jazeera, June 13; InfoBae, June 12; InfoBae, June 10; InfoBae, June 9)

Fujimori is asserting that her extremely low showing in several rural districts is evidence of fraud, and her campaign is also posting images online of supposedly forged voter registration cards from these districts. One young voter from Chanchamayo, JunĂ­n region, spoke out to the media after his registration card was displayed by the Fujimori campaign. “I don’t know why they are saying this isn’t my signature,” he said. “This is my signature, Señora Keiko Fujimori.” (La RepĂșblica, June 11)

Among the regions prominent in Fujimori’s fraud claims is heavily indigenous Amazonas, on the edge of the rainforest in Peru’s northeast. Two regional organizations of the AwajĂșn indigenous people have issued a joint statement rejecting Fujimori’s fraud accusations concerning their districts. The statement was released by the Organization for the Development of the Cenepa Frontier Communities (ODECOFROC), near the Ecuadoran border, and the Central Apu of Chipe, in Bagua province. They warned that if their vote is not respected it could result in a second “baguazo”—a reference to the 2009 uprising in the Peruvian Amazon that climaxed in a massacre at Bagua. (CAAP, June 10)

Castillo also swept areas impacted by mining in Peru’s Andes. In mining provinces such as Cotabambas (ApurĂ­mac region), Espinar and Chumbivilcas (both in Cuzco region),  over nine out of 10 residents voted for Castillo. (Reuters, June 11) He also swept his own heavily mining-impacted region of Cajamarca with 71% of the vote. (El Comercio, June 9)

Some Castillo supporters (although not his actual campaign) may have also engaged in social-media subterfuge. Reports circulating online as the voting dispute mounted maintained that 20,000 ronderos (members of rural self-defense patrols) were marching on Lima in support of Castillo, with images purporting to show a large contingent of armed campesinos heading out on the road from Chumbivilcas. But Santos Saavedra Vasquez, president of the Unitary National Center of Rondas Campesinas (CUNARC), denied the reports and said the photos had been misrepresented. (La RepĂșblica, June 12; La RepĂșblica, June 8)

Left-wing newspapers have declared Castillo the “virtual president of Peru.” (Diario Uno) However, Lima lodged a formal protest with Argentina after that country’s government congratulated Castillo as the “president elect” of Peru. (Peru21, June 10)

Fujimori risks an imminent trial and prison term on corruption charges if she loses the election. Last year, she was ordered imprisoned under “preventative detention” measures as the charges were pending against her. Peruvian state prosecutor JosĂ© Domingo PĂ©rez has now asked a judge to return Fujimori to prison for failing to abide by the terms of her conditional release, contending that she spoke to an investigation witness, Miguel Torres Morales, who is also a media representative for her campaign. The money-laundering charges are related to the Odebrecht scandal, which has now touched the political elites of several South American countries. (AP, June 12; MercoPress, June 10)

Photo: Diario Uno