- Mariana Alvim – @marianaalvim
- From BBC News Brasil in São Paulo
Despite the narrow margin, Pedro Castillo’s (Perú Libre) victory in the Peruvian presidential election adds to recent left-wing achievements in South America, resulting in a new correlation of political forces in the region, according to international relations experts interviewed by BBC News Brazil.
In other words, the 0.25 percentage point that Castillo had an advantage over his opponent, Keiko Fujimori (Fuerza Popular), is not enough to say that Peru, or even South America, are consistently and homogeneously adhering to projects from the left.
But recent victories there, in Bolivia, Argentina and Chile, show that what appeared to be a conservative wave led by Mauricio Macri in Argentina in 2015 and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil in 2018 in Brazil, among others, was reversed, at least partially.
Castillo had 50.125% of the votes and Keiko Fujimori, 49.875%. He was proclaimed president by the electoral court of Peru only on Monday (19/7), more than a month after the second round was held (6/6) and the conclusion of the counting of votes (15/6). In the meantime, Keiko has opened a court battle for accusing the election of fraud.
“When elected (in 2019, in Argentina), Alberto Fernández did not have an interlocutor in South America. His first trip was to Mexico, because he did not have an interlocutor in the region. Now, Fernández already has two interlocutors, in Peru and in Bolivia,” says Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo (FGV-SP), referring to the choice of Luis Arce in the 2020 Bolivian election.
“We cannot talk about the end of the wave of right-wing presidents — because we still have Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Colombia (respectively with Guillermo Lasso, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Mario Abdo Benítez, Jair Bolsonaro and Iván Duque). Colombia, by the way, may be one of the next countries to turn, as Duque is very unpopular. But clearly that perception that the ‘pink wave’ was over, doesn’t seem to be the case. The left still has competitive candidates,” adds Stuenkel , Ph.D. in political science from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.
The period of election or re-election of several leftist names in the region in the early 2000s, such as in Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua and Ecuador, was called the “pink wave”.
Evidently, President Bolsonaro represents the reverse side of this pink wave. Because he is surrounded by countries that are returning to elect the left, he can precisely use this in his 2022 reelection campaign, in Stuenkel’s assessment.
A doctor in Latin American history from Emory University and a professor at the University of Denver, both in the United States, Rafael Ioris agrees.
“What happens in Brazil tends to influence the region more than the other way around, but in any case, Bolsonaro is more isolated from a diplomatic and symbolic point of view. Now, that doesn’t change his narrative: it might even reinforce it. He can come. to say that he needs to be elected because the region is heading towards communism — which is still a confirmation of its isolation”, points out Ioris.
Impact on the Brazil-Peru relationship
For Oliver Stuenkel, the diplomatic consequences of the new relationship that is imposed, between countries commanded by Bolsonaro and Castillo, will only not be very great since the Planalto no longer had a regional policy.
“The Bolsonaro government does not have a vision for the region, integration projects… The other countries, on the other hand, need to maintain cordial ties with Brazil because they have no other option”, says the professor at FGV-SP.
Dawisson Belém Lopes, professor of international politics at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), recalls the importance of Brazil to the region, holding a large part of its economy and territory.
“The sources from inside the government reported in the Brazilian press indicated that the Brazilian government was very keen for the victory of Keiko Fujimori, and the argument is always the same: that trade relations will deteriorate with a left government. I don’t buy this narrative, After all these years dealing with international relations, especially with foreign trade. You can see that this ideological agenda runs a lot on the sidelines, there is enormous pragmatism (in trade). So I don’t believe in any direct and immediate impact,” says Lopes.
On the other hand, he recognizes the possibility of Castillo’s Peru abandoning the Grupo de Lima, created in 2017 to seek solutions to the Venezuelan crisis — according to the UFMG professor, tending to a tough stance against Caracas.
“A possible impact on the Brazil-Peru bilateral relationship does not seem to me to be something based on facts. It is more twisted, because it seems that there is in fact a repositioning of the left in Latin America. The latest news seems to be an encouragement for the left”, says Lopes , Ph.D. in political science from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and senior researcher at the Brazilian Center for International Relations.
“This is not to say that the right is weakened in the region. This is not the case. In all these elections, the right competed strong.”
four presidents in three years
Before making connections between the political situation in Peru and Brazil, it is important to talk about the peculiarities of the neighboring country.
Respondents explained that Peru does not usually elect left-wing presidents — elected as such, Ollanta Humala actually made a government with a more right-wing profile between 2011 and 2016.
The successors, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Martín Vizcarra, consolidated a liberal orientation in Lima. Therefore, the choice of Castillo represents a particularly marked shift to the left for Peru.
“Castillo represents a bigger break than if someone won in Argentina, or even in Ecuador, Mexico, which have recent leftist political pasts. And his election changes the balance of Latin America because Peru had become, along the way. of recent years, the darling of international markets. The country followed the recommendations to modernize the economy, to become competitive — and in fact it showed very high growth rates”, points out Stuenkel.
However, in recent years, Peru has also been experiencing a strong political crisis. Since 2018, the country has had four presidents, including during this period the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and the impeachment of Martín Vizcarra.
“In recent years, the Peruvian political system has had several problems similar to Brazil. Investigations, corruption scandals revealed daily, ex-presidents imprisoned, the popular perception of a completely corrupt elite”, enumerates Stuenkel.
Clues to understand the political scenario in Brazil
Rafael Ioris adds that the “deep institutional crisis” experienced by Peru in recent years was reflected in this election in the contestation of the results and party fragmentation — among many candidates, Castillo and Keiko moved into the second round with less than 20% of the votes each.
“This reflects a deep polarization of Peruvian society, and also deep social, economic and institutional problems. This division must continue, because the election showed that the country is divided,” says the professor at the University of Denver.
Dawisson Belém Lopes mentions, for example, the division between voters in the Peruvian coast versus the Amazon jungle, or urban areas versus the interior. The vote map by region very clearly shows a preference of the coastal area for Keiko, and the interior for Castillo.
For the UFMG professor, the Peruvian election was defined by bipolarity — and in Latin American countries with deep divisions, such as Brazil, this may be a clue that alternative candidacies, which try to present themselves as a third way, hardly work in this scenery.
Referring to a term catapulted by the presidential elections in Brazil in 2018, it can also be said that the winner in Peru, Pedro Castillo, is a outsider in politics — with no experience in executive or legislative positions in the country, but as a trade unionist and elementary school teacher.
Keiko, on the other hand, carries in her surname one of the most important names in recent Peruvian history. Daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, currently imprisoned for human rights abuses, she has held other political positions and candidacies.
In the electoral dispute, Castillo may have benefited not because he represented an ideological field, but simply because he was a novelty, says Rafael Ioris. “I don’t know if the result is so based on ideologies, or is it more a question of the fatigue of the the status quo. For example, in Brazil, if a Bolsonaro opposition candidate is elected, it will not necessarily be because Brazil has resumed a left-wing agenda as a society, as it embarked on in the early 2000s, but rather a fatigue with the current reality.”
For Dawisson Belém Lopes, this dissatisfaction with the the status quo may explain, in part, the retreat of the right in Latin America — which a few years ago rose as a novelty, and is now being tested by reality, like that of the coronavirus pandemic. “You outsiders, as soon as they are included in the system, they have to bear the burden of governing. Then, they are then punished at the ballot box for their performance. For example, in the pandemic, governments that failed to contain or mitigate it are being punished,” says the UFMG professor, adding that South America is one of the parts of the world that is suffering the most from covid-19.
Democracy remains at risk
Considering the last years of Peruvian politics and the divisions that persist, before and after the election result, analysts warn that Castillo’s victory does not guarantee a stable mandate — recent history in the country, and even on the continent, shows that impeachment demands they are almost a constant haunting presidents.
And according to Oliver Stuenkel, Castillo himself poses a risk to democracy, as does his defeated opponent — who accused the election of fraudulent in the first hours of counting.
“There are several perspectives to analyze this election results. Certainly one of them is the left versus the right. But another one is that this is another great victory of a outsider which represents the failure of traditional politics,” says the professor at FGV.
“The biggest loser in this is democracy, because you have two candidates who have advanced to the second round whose rhetoric contains a lot of authoritarian elements.”
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