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Castillo and Fujimori compete in populism in their first face-to-face debate in Peru

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Populism, demagogy, and xenophobia reigned this Saturday, May 1st, in the first debate between Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori, an improvised face-to-face, to which the two candidates in the second round of Peru’s presidential elections had challenged and challenged each other in previous days.

This street duel full of personal attacks entered the political history of Peru for being the second presidential debate to be held outside Lima and the first in a rural area, as it was held in Chota, a small town in the Peruvian Andes whose province Castillo is a native of.

Castillo and Fujimori compete in populism in their first face to face in Peru
Castillo and Fujimori compete in populism in their first face-to-face in Peru. (Photo internet reproduction)

The candidate acted as a local since, in that province, he was the most voted in the first round with 66% of the votes against Fujimori’s 5%.

The meeting began at one o’clock in the afternoon in the main square of Chota, organized in record time and parallel to the two presidential debates that the National Jury of Elections (JNE) hopes to hold with both candidates, a proposal that Castillo’s party has not yet accepted.

“If Fujimori wants to debate, I will wait for her in Chota,” said Castillo this week, a challenge that did not intimidate Fujimori, who accepted the proposal to debate against her rival in his homeland and with the conditions that she would set.


Even though the daughter and political heir of former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) arrived half an hour late to the appointment, the debate was held before the expectation of the entire population of Chota, who gathered without respecting the pandemic security measures. However, only a small group was able to enter the square.

“After making so many excuses, I finally had to come here to exchange ideas. I hope we can also see each other in the next debates,” Fujimori said.

The debate, moderated by local journalists Carlos Idrogo and Henry Flores, was structured in five topics (health, education, economy, security, and anti-corruption fight).

Both candidates appeared wearing clothes allusive to Peru, with Fujimori sporting the Peruvian national soccer team jersey and Castillo a jacket with the Peru brand logo.

However, the face-to-face reinforced the clash of ideas that both candidates have about the future of Peru, especially about the continuity of the liberal economic model that has been maintained in Peru since former President Fujimori.


While Castillo, candidate of the extreme left-wing Peru Libre party, supports a new Constitution and the nationalization of resources, Fujimori represents the authoritarian right of her father and the continuity of the Constitution in force since 1993, which emerged after the “auto-coup” by the former president.

“This Constitution made by the great corruption has plundered the Peruvian people,” said Castillo, who reaffirmed in nationalizing natural resources, especially gas.

“These corrupt people have made their own Constitution, have plundered the country, and have wanted to become entrenched in the government”, added the candidate to recall former president Fujimori, who was reelected in 2000. However, before being sentenced to 25 years in prison for crimes against humanity, the Constitution prevented it.

For her part, the candidate of the party Fuerza Popular promised “a reconciled country without class struggle”; because the country “needs a change, but not a change backward or a leap into the abyss”, and demanded Castillo answer for Vladimir Cerron, the founder of Peru Libre with a current conviction for corruption.


Little by little, the two candidates engaged in exchanging populist proposals, such as getting a Peruvian vaccine against Covid-19, something on which they agreed.

Fujimori suggested reducing fuel taxes and giving directly to the people the royalties from hydrocarbon exploitation that are now received by the regional governments.

In response, Castillo affirmed that he would invest 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in education and another 10% in health, he will give his salary to the most vulnerable, judges will be chosen by popular vote, and he will sign a decree so that “in 72 hours all foreigners who have come to commit crimes will leave the country”.

In education, Fujimori promised to build 3,000 schools in five years, the same that her father did in ten years, and to give better conditions “to the teachers who teach, not to those who are on union leave and left the children abandoned,” in a clear reference to Castillo.

The candidate responded that it is his right and reminded her that she came to Chota with a judicial permit. She faces a 30-year jail charge for alleged money laundering in her previous electoral campaigns that already led her to spend 15 months in preventive prison recently.


Finally, Fujimori insisted to Castillo that he should not run away from the other debates. Her rival replied that he would not do as her father did about his resignation from the presidency by fax from Japan when in 2000, the gigantic corruption scheme within his administration was discovered.

The latest polls for the June 6 vote give Castillo first in voting intentions with 44%, at least ten points ahead of Fujimori.

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