Pedro Castillo, Rural Teacher With A Shot At Peru's Presidency
Facing off against neoliberal Keiko Fujimori in elections on Sunday, Castillo has vowed to nationalize Peru's vast mineral resources, to expel foreigners who commit crimes in the country, and to move towards reinstating the death penalty.
One thing unlikely to change under a Castillo presidency is the Peruvian state's socially conservative character: he is Catholic and vehemently opposed to gay marriage, elective abortion and euthanasia.
He frequently quotes from the Bible to drive home his points.
He had not ranked among the top five choices in opinion polls ahead of a first voting round contested by a record 18 candidates.
Yet Castillo garnered nearly 20 percent of ballots cast amid a raging Covid-19 outbreak to which he also fell victim when he contracted the virus last year.
Castillo burst onto the national scene four years ago when he led thousands of teachers on a nearly 80-day strike to demand a pay rise and the repeal of an unpopular system for evaluating teacher performance.
The strike left 3.5 million public school pupils without classes to attend, and compelled then-president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who initially refused to negotiate, to relent and agree to striker demands.
In a bid to delegitimize the protest, then-interior minister Carlos Basombrio claimed its leaders were linked to Movadef, the political wing of the defeated Shining Path Maoist guerrilla group dubbed a "terrorist" organization by Lima.
He almost always wears Cajamarca's traditional hat, likes to don a poncho and shoes made of recycled tires, and arrived on horseback -- the region's traditional means of transport -- to cast his vote in the first round.
On the campaign trail for the Free Peru party, Castillo promised radical change to improve the lot of Peruvians contending with a recession worsened by the pandemic, rising unemployment and poverty.
"We are not going to take savings from the people who work, we will respect private property... workers own their savings," he said.
But Castillo has said that Peru's mining and hydrocarbon riches "must be nationalized." Peru is a large producer of copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc, and mining brings in 10 percent of national GDP and a fifth of company taxes.
Castillo has promised public investment to reactivate the economy through infrastructure projects, public procurement from small businesses, and to "curb imports that affect the national industry and peasantry."But he has sought to dispel claims that "we are going to take your wine farm, that we are going to take your house, your property."