Peru: A War Strategy to Prevent the Coming of the New

Ariana Álvarez Orellana
Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo (Photo: El Nuevo Herald)Pedro Castillo and Perú Libre have the upper hand in the second round of the Peruvian elections, not only because of the wide lead given by the polls, but also because their rival, Keiko Fujimori, her political and image advisors, as well as her occasional allies from the political right, are carrying out a strategy of confrontation, an anti-vote campaign, as if it were a war, which they must win in any event.

Surely, the distances will be shortened by January 6, but analysts agree that the strategies outlined in the last week make it unlikely that the gap will be closed at all. What Keiko is trying to do is to liquidate the rival, to subdue the neutrals, the undecided, the hesitant. She does not seek to persuade voters and win them over with positive proposals. What she is doing is instilling fear and panic in them; she thinks that this way she is going to capture votes, points out Victor Caballero.

In order to prevent a coup d’état, Castillo’s victory must be comfortable. That depends, I suppose, on a good part of the 33% of undecided voters who perceive that the coup is not an option. This seems to be the position of Hernando de Soto who declared that his conversations with Castillo were “satisfactory” and that he sees him “getting closer to the center”.

In Keiko’s veins runs the blood of confrontation, war, and her fascist environment encourages it. Her business is to polarize. Her goal is to regain power to continue plundering the State’s coffers. She is not interested in addressing the voters of the center-left or the social, environmental, feminist collectives; or, it seems, the citizens of the south and center of the country, whom she considers chavists, communists, terrorists.

“The problem is that by considering that we are in a war, the thermocephalous ex-military men are now knocking on the door of the barracks to carry out a military coup before the second round; others are threatening that an eventual triumph of Pedro Castillo will lead the country to a military coup to prevent him from becoming a government”, Caballero pointed out.

Mario Vargas Llosa, no less, adds: “a military coup cannot be ruled out”, and “it will probably be a right-wing coup, that would plunge us once again into a military dictatorship that would last for who knows how many years”. This is a clear threat to the attempt of democracy, to the respect for the will of the people and the right to elect the candidate they want, not the one imposed by the genocidal right wing and its hegemonic media repeaters”.

Castillo, for his part, has sought to build a reasonable image, dialoguing, without yielding to the temptation of unnecessary or premature concessions that dilute his political identity. “He can be normalized in the public eye because he is, in effect, a normal character, perfectly legible from the plain, perfectly understandable for the majority of citizens”, points out Jorge Frisancho.

And that is why his popularity rose so steadily during the first round campaign. His figure is easily recognizable; public school teacher, local and regional politician, small farmer, trade unionist. He is a tangible, credible figure, and that first impression counts much more than ideological affiliations.

For example, without raising his voice, he calmly points out that it is the banks that are taking away people’s homes. Thus, despite the fact that the right wing counts on the mass media, with the perorations of those who appear as extremists are the right wingers, such as Beto Ortiz, Mario Vargas Llosa and all those who appear on the covers of Peru 21.

It is evident that Castillo’s irruption has been possible precisely because he clearly poses a confrontation in the field of ideology and enunciates a fundamental antagonism instead of trying to disguise it and reveals the exhaustion of the apparent consensuses of the Peruvian political life of the last decades, and gives shape and representation to a bloc based on a different consensus, Frisancho points out.

This new consensus points to the left: no one who has voted for Pedro Castillo or plans to do so is unaware of what is at stake. The fundamental antagonism is between the beneficiaries of the neoliberal “model” and those who suffer its consequences.

And it comes with content: his electoral offer includes banners long raised by the Peruvian left, such as a constitutional change or the national control of primary resources, among other politically valid issues. The project that Pedro Castillo represents does not yet have a defined form, beyond these general guidelines, and the social movement that accompanies it.

Castillo does not emerge as the extremist and polarizing figure, an image that the right wing is trying to impose in the collective imagination. And while he dedicated himself to communicate effectively, reassuring those who fear him with credible promises of respecting the institutional framework and focusing on the immediate needs generated by the pandemic and the crisis, his opponents vociferate that he is a risk for democracy and threaten with a coup d’état.

He has discursive skills capable of expressing popular discontent and the contradictions that define social and economic life, but not a concrete program of state policies. An advantage in electoral campaign is this flexibility to modulate according to the circumstances and the situation, since it helps to win elections: Castillo can speak at the same time to different audiences, to the convinced and the still undecided, without blurring the contours of his message of change.

For the first time in a long time in Peruvian politics, the right is losing and seems desperate because of it. The only weapon in its arsenal -extreme diatribe and terrorism, mobilizing class fears with increasing insistence and baring its teeth in a threatening gesture while calling its rival extremist, dangerous and violent- has lost effectiveness. It no longer makes an impression as it used to. Everything seems to indicate that their moment has passed, and that something new is emerging, says Frisancho.

Ariana Álvarez Orellana: Peruvian anthropologist, teacher and researcher, analyst associated with the Latin American Center for Strategic Analysis (CLAE,

Translation by Internationalist 360°