Peru seems poised for polarization following surprise results in first-round presidential elections that saw a previously unknown leftist candidate, Pedro Castillo, taking 19% of the vote in a very crowded field—more than any of his rivals. In a June run-off, he will face his runner-up—hard-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, who took 13%. The two candidates represent the extremes of Peru’s electoral spectrum. Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori—and had herself been imprisoned as corruption charges were pending against her last year. Her Fuerza Popular party is the paradoxical populist vehicle of the most reactionary sectors of the country’s elites, and has actually been assailed as a “mafia organization.” Castillo, in vivid contrast, is a former school-teacher and trade unionist of campesino background from the poor and rural Andean region of Cajamarca. His successful grassroots campaign is seen an upsurge from such forgotten parts of the country, in rejection of the Lima-based political class. (Photo of Pedro Castillo in Lima via Twitter)
Supporters of longtime Peruvian social leader Hugo Blanco are protesting what they call a disinformation campaign launched by the military and political right in response to release of a documentary film about his life. The documentary, Hugo Blanco, Río Profundo, produced by filmmaker Malena Martínez, won last year’s National Competition for Feature Film Distribution Projects, sponsored by Peru’s Ministry of Culture. This has prompted a group of current and former generals and admirals of the armed forces to issue a joint statement accusing the Culture Ministry of helping to disseminate a film that glorifies “extreme terrorist violence.” The statement falsely implies that Blanco had been involved in the Shining Path movement—which had actually threatened his life for his refusal to support it.
Two imprisoned leaders of the Sendero Luminoso guerilla movement were released from military prison to house arrest by authorities in Peru, sparking outrage and debate in the country's media. Osmán Morote and Margot Liendo were arrested by anti-terrorist police in Lima in 1988. They completed their 25-year terms in 2013, but remained in detention as new charges were brought against them, concerning attacks in which some 150 were killed. The transfers from the detention facility at Callao Naval Base were ordered by the National Penal Chamber of Peru. Both Morote and Liendo were required to pay a bond of 10,000 soles ($3,100), and will be guarded at their homes in the Lima area by National Police agents. They have both declared a hunger strike in protest of the police presence and house arrest order, saying they should have absolute freedom after serving their terms. But President Martín Vizcarra called upon the judges to reverse their decision, and keep the pair behind bars while the new charges are pending against them. (Photo: Infobae)
Thousands have taken to the streets of Lima every night since the Christmas Eve pardon of ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori, to be repeatedly dispersed by the riot police with tear-gas. Lead contingents in the marches have been relatives of those assassinated and "disappeared" under Fujimori's rule, especially victims of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres—carried out in 1991 and 1992, respectively, by regime-linked death squads against suspected sympathizers of the Shining Path. Marchers hold placards with the faces and names of "disappeared" students, workers and activists from the Fujimori era. (Photo: Diario Uno)
Thousands marched in Lima to demand that Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski not pardon ex-strongman Alberto Fujimori, now serving a 25-year term for human rights violations.
An aggressive new coca-eradication campaign in Peru was met with a deadly attack on security forces by remnant Sendero Luminoso guerillas in the targeted production zone.
Peru's new defense minister, Jorge Nieto Montesinos, announced that he will focus on wiping out remnant Shining Path guerillas operating in the country's main coca-producing region.
Lima was treated to the spectacle of topless women being tear-gassed by police at a protest outside the Congress building against a new law to toughen strictures on abortion.
Far-right Keiko Fujimori is headed for the second round in a Peruvian presidential race so marked by controversies and irregularities that The Economist calls it a "dangerous farce."
Peru's army announced that it had "rescued" 39 people—the majority indigenous Asháninka and 26 of them underage—who were held captive in Sendero Luminoso camps.
Peru's authorities claim to have evidence that the neo-Senderistas are in league with a re-organized Colombian cocaine cartel, ironically known as the "Cafeteros" (coffee-producers).
A force of US Marines has been mobilized to Peru's conflicted coca-growing jungle region, the Valley of the Apurímac and Ene Rivers, to assist in interdiction efforts.