Thousands of Castillo’s followers await the final decision in the streets of Lima: “When do you recognize the teacher?”
Followers of Pedro Castillo in front of the building where the candidate awaits the resolution of the electoral courts, on Thursday in Lima.ALESSANDRO CINQUE / Reuters

After a day on the road, the bus finally parks in the center of Lima. Passengers with dark circles, wrinkled clothes and numb legs descend after a long journey from the depths of Peru. The center of the capital has been filled with people from all over the country to follow in the open air and with a heavy heart the resolutions of the electoral jury that will determine if Keiko Fujimori’s allegations of victory at the polls of Pedro Castillo have some sustenance. The process may take longer than expected, since the deadline for filing annulments has been extended until Friday night.

“About 24 hours of travel, it is not that long. Hardly, ”says Julio Bravo. It comes from Chota, Cajamarca, the mountainous region of Castillo. Some come from the highest mountain villages, where they live hours on foot or on horseback from the rest of their neighbors. They do it with enthusiasm, although with the fear of being hit by a car. Their feeling is that in the eighties they came to the cities to live on the outskirts, on the slopes of the hills, but now they come to proclaim one of their own president.

Followers of the presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori gathered on Wednesday today to protest and denounce an alleged electoral fraud in the last second round, in the Campo de Marte sector, in Lima (Peru).
Followers of the presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori gathered on Wednesday today to protest and denounce an alleged electoral fraud in the last second round, in the Campo de Marte sector, in Lima (Peru).Paolo Aguilar / EFE

Bravo belongs to the rondas, an autonomous organization created in the 1970s to combat rural crime. Before, cattle theft and assaults on farms were common. The State did not arrive there and even today its influence is scarce. The ronderos have imposed their control in parts of the mountains, with what this entails the loss of rights of the detainees and the imposition of the talión law. Castillo, in addition to being a rural teacher and trade unionist, was a patrolman and became one of its leaders. The ronderos usually go with a whip as a method of defense. “We have come 1,500 from all over Peru. 400 from Chota ”, says Bravo. They wear ponchos and chew coca leaves to stay alert during surveillance nights.

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Castillo won the official count by a very narrow margin, by less than half a point (0.34%). Fujimori has called for the cancellation of 800 polling stations in places where Castillo easily won. She believes there was fraud. The experts consulted do not see any indication that this has been the case. The number of minutes that he intends to extract from the official count is equivalent to 200,000 votes. In that case she would be the winner.

The neutrality of the current acting president, Francisco Sagasti, has been called into question. Sagasti, in office after the removal of three previous presidents in the last five years, which accounts for the profound political instability that Peru is experiencing, called in the midst of this crisis the Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. The Fujimori have interpreted this as interference, as an attempt to get the writer to convince the candidate to accept his defeat. Sagasti has said that this is not the case at all, and that his call to the writer tries to calm a difficult and complex moment. Vargas Llosa is a historical anti-Fujimorist, but in this campaign she has offered her support to Keiko, considering her a lesser evil.

Fujimori supporters also spend day and night in the streets. “They robbed us,” says a woman wearing a T-shirt with the face of the candidate stamped on it. Sometimes they come across the people of Castillo. So far there have only been minor incidents that have been resolved by the police. The fujimoristas, in their extreme desires to enforce the annulment of polls, wander all day around the house of the national president of elections.

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Castillo, a left-wing radical, looks from time to time to the balcony of the building where he awaits the final decision. “They cannot rob the people!” He shouts. Below, Alfredo Medina, one of his followers, listens to him. “We will not allow that to happen. He won”. An old lady does not see the candidate well, people block her vision. He has been walking from the outskirts of Lima. “When do you recognize the teacher?” He asks. People shrug their shoulders. “This is already taking a long time.”

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