President-elect Pedro Castillo’s ‘Free Peru’ a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party

UPDATE – The Wall Street Journal has an OpEd on 6.21.2021 bemoaning the election of Pedro Castillo.  I posted the following comment.

The main point here is that the WSJ looks askance that yet another “Marxist-Leninist” (whatever that means in today’s Social Media parlance) is about to take the reins of power in Peru. Thank goodness we are way beyond the days of “Marxist Menace in Latin America” Salvador Allende when the Nixon Administration pulled out all the stops and successfully engineered  a coup and assassination of a democratically elected leader on a day in 1973.  September 11.  Thus, ushering in nearly 20 years of political repression and the introduction of Milton Friedman capitalism in Chile under the not so benign rule of Augusto Pinochet.

Lee Heidhues 6.16.2021

The South American nation of Peru has apparently chosen an avowed Marxist-Leninist as its new President, former school teacher Pedro Castillo (pictured above).  His opponent, Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, currently imprisoned for corruption and alleged human rights abuses.

Should the election result stand Pedro Castillo will have a difficult task implementing his political agenda. The Peruvian legislature will be dominated by conservatives and supporters of defeated candidate Fujimori. Still the election of an avowed radical as President of Peru will be a closely analyzed event in the coming months.

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 6.16.2021

Until four years ago, Pedro Castillo was a teacher in a rural school in the Andes. Then he gained national notoriety as the leader of a teachers strike, and now he’s president of Peru.

Born in Tacabamba in 1969, Castillo served as a young man in the local Rondas Campesinas — patrols organized by farmers during height of the the internal conflict to protect communities from guerrilla attacks in the 1980s and ’90s, when the armed forces, as well as the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path and the Marxist-Leninist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, terrorized rural Peru. The state did little to help, and many believe that the government continues to neglect the rural poor.

In 2002, Castillo failed in his bid to become mayor of Anguia, a district capital in Cajamarca. But in 2017 he rose to prominence as the leader of a nationwide teachers strike, playing a key role in its success. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, president at the time, eventually met a number of their demands, including higher salaries.

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Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Castillo at campaign debate

Castillo appears to have won a razor-thin majority in Peru’s June 6 presidential runoff. After a protracted vote count, he claimed victory on Wednesday, although his election rival, the economically liberal authoritarian Keiko Fujimori, whose imprisoned father is a former president himself, has made allegations of fraud and pledged to fight the result.

Castillo’s party, Free Peru, takes a Marxist-Leninist vanguard approach to socialism, which has led some opponents of the new president to say they fear that democracy may now be in jeopardy. But the members of the right wing in Peru are always quick to maintain that their leftist opponents are jeopardizing democracy. There’s even a word for it: “terruqueo” — often groundless accusations that leftists are sympathizing with communism-based terror organizations.


Guillermo Bermejo, a member of Free Peru who was elected to Congress in spring, does have ties to Shining Path, according to the public prosecutor’s office. “We are socialists, and our path to a new Constitution is a first step, and, if we take power, we are not going to leave it,” Bermejo says on recording that he says was made a year ago. “If, in the worst-case scenario, it were to go bad for us, it must go bad under our flag — not under someone else’s.”

Castillo leads the socially conservative faction of the otherwise-left-wing Free Peru. An evangelical Christian, he has been vocal in his opposition to legalizing abortion and allowing same-sex marriage.

The new president has proposed nationalizing the mining industry, including oil and gas extraction, if contracts with companies are not renegotiated satisfactorily, and overhauling the pension system to favor workers. He aims to ensure that the private sector benefits a majority of Peruvians and plans to boost state spending on agriculture and education.

Castillo has announced plans to “deactivate” the Constitutional Court and create a tribunal to which members are voted in by the public rather than by the legislature. He has also proposed a Constitutional Assembly to rewrite Peru’s constitution “with the color, scent and flavor of the people.”

Just under 50% of voters cast their ballots against Castillo in the second round, and he received 19% support in the first round. Free Peru has 37 of the 130 seats of the unicameral legislature, giving it just under 30% backing from lawmakers. Over half the seats are occupied by Fujimorists, neoliberals and conservatives. “Before he assumes power, Castillo needs to reach some agreements,” the Peruvian political analyst Gonzalo Banda said. “He cannot introduce reforms without the support of Congress.”

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Pedro Castillo supporters work out during the campaign