José Pedro Castillo Terrones (born 19 October 1969) is a Peruvian schoolteacher, union leader and politician serving as the 63rd President of Peru since 28 July 2021, following the 2021 general election. He attained prominence as a leading figure in the 2017 teacher strike and ran in the election as the candidate of the left-wing Free Peru party. He placed first in the initial round of the presidential vote and advanced to the second round against Keiko Fujimori. On 16 June, the final count of the second round by the National Office of Electoral Processes indicated that Castillo had won 50.13% of valid votes, although the National Jury of Elections delayed its official declaration of the outcome due to unsubstantiated allegations of fraud raised by Fujimori. Castillo's victory was confirmed on 19 July, and he was inaugurated on 28 July.
|63rd President of Peru|
|Assumed office |
28 July 2021
|Prime Minister||Guido Bellido|
|Vice President||Dina Boluarte|
|Preceded by||Francisco Sagasti|
|Born||19 October 1969|
Puña, Cajamarca, Peru
|Political party||Free Peru (2020–present)|
|Possible Peru (2005–2017)|
|Alma mater||César Vallejo University (BA, MA)|
Early life and education
Castillo was born into the impoverished family of two illiterate peasants in the town of Puña, Tacabamba, Chota Province, Department of Cajamarca. Cajamarca, despite being the location of South America's largest gold mine, has remained one of the poorest regions in Peru. He is the third child of nine in his parents' family.
His father Ireño Castillo was born on a hacienda owned by a landowning family, performing intensive labor for the family, including instances of carrying the landowner across his tracts of land to keep his boots clean. The family rented land from the landowners until General Juan Velasco Alvarado took power and redistributed property from landowners to peasants, with Ireño receiving a plot of land he had been working on.
During his childhood, Castillo often had to balance his schooling with farm work at home. He completed his elementary and high school education at the Octavio Matta Contreras de Cutervo Higher Pedagogical Institute. Castillo's daily trek to and from school involved walking along steep cliffside paths for two hours, wearing a ram wool poncho and chotano straw hat.
As a teenager and young adult, Castillo traveled throughout Peru to earn funds for his studies. Beginning at the age of twelve, he and his father would walk 140 kilometres (87 mi) for two to three days to work for a few months in the coffee plantations of the Amazon region of Peru. With his sister, Castillo traveled through the Amazon to work with rice crops and sell ice cream in order to pay for studies. In Lima, he sold newspapers and cleaned hotel rooms. He studied Primary Education in the Octavio Carrera Education Institute of Superior Studies and a master's degree in Educational Psychology from the César Vallejo University.
During the internal conflict in Peru that began in the 1980s, Castillo worked in his youth as a patrolman of the Ronda Campesina to defend against Shining Path. A former student of Castillo, Nilver Herrera, followed him into the Ronda Campesina, saying that Castillo "was always trying to help people, ... If we had to build a road, he was there, if we had to do some task or errand, he was there, and if we had to help a sick person who didn’t have money, he was there." According to Farid Kahhat, a Peruvian international relations professor interviewed by Jacobin, these groups included some with leftist beliefs, and combated far-left terrorism in rural areas not under the reach of the Peruvian government.
Since 1995, Castillo worked as a primary school teacher and principal at School 10465 in the town of Puña, Chota, where he was responsible for cooking, cleaning, and teaching for the students in his classroom. According to Castillo, the community constructed the school after receiving no government assistance. Castillo's career of teaching involved receiving low pay, with the vocational status of his work being highly respected and influential in the rural regions of Peru, promoting Castillo to be involved with teachers' unions.
After reading a news article that Peru had experienced great economic growth due to the nation's mineral wealth, Castillo observed how his students arrived to school hungry and did not obtain any benefits from the economy, inspiring him to change Peru's situation. Castillo became a teachers' union leader during the 2017 strike, which sought to increase salaries, pay the social debt, repeal the Law of the Public Teacher Career, and increase the budget of the education sector. The strikes spread to various parts of the Peruvian south and because it was being prolonged, the Minister of Education Marilú Martens, Prime Minister Fernando Zavala, the 25 regional governors, and the Regional Directorate of Lima, were called. Despite reaching an agreement, the teachers remained on strike.
President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski offered himself as a mediator, inviting the teachers' delegates to meet with him in the Government Palace to reach a solution; only the leaders of the CEN were received, along with the leaders of Cuzco, but not the representatives of the bases led by Castillo. Due to this, the strike worsened, with the arrival of the teachers from all regions to Lima, holding marches and rallies in the capital. Keiko Fujimori and her Fujimorist supporters – opponents of the Kuczynski administration – assisted Castillo with the strike in an effort to destabilize the president's government.
On 24 August 2017, despite the fact that some teachers were still on strike, the government issued a supreme decree making official the benefits agreed in the negotiations. The government issued a warning that if the teachers did not return to classrooms as of 28 August, the Ministry of Education would proceed to hire new teachers.
In 2002, Castillo unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Anguía with the centre-left party Possible Peru of Alejandro Toledo. He served as a leading member of the party in Cajamarca from 2005, until the party's dissolution in 2017, following its poor results in the 2016 general election. Following his leadership during the teachers' strike, numerous political parties in Peru approached Castillo to promote him as a congressional candidate, though he refused and instead decided to run for president after being encouraged by unions.
2021 presidential election
During the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru, Castillo attempted to continue teaching his students through lockdowns. His impoverished community, however, did not have the capabilities; almost none of his students had access to a cell phone, and the educational tablets promised by the government never arrived. After experiencing the struggles his students faced over his more than twenty-five years of teaching, Castillo was inspired to enter as a candidate in the presidential election.
In October 2020, he announced his presidential bid in the 2021 general election with Free Peru. He formally attained the nomination on 6 December 2020, confirming his ticket, which included attorney Dina Boluarte and former Governor of Junín, Vladimir Cerrón. Cerrón was later disqualified by the National Jury of Elections due to serving a prison sentence for corruption, since 2019.
During his campaign, Castillo said he would pardon ethnic nationalist Antauro Humala, a ethnocacerist and brother of former President Ollanta Humala, who was sentenced to nineteen years in prison after leading the capture of a police station in Andahuaylas that resulted in the deaths of four policemen and one gunman. When concluding his first campaign before the primary round of elections, Castillo held a campaign rally in the Historic Centre of Lima, beginning with a rally at Plaza San Martín, leading a march on horseback to Plaza Dos de Mayo where hundreds of supporters gathered. At the event, he told attendees that if elected, the citizens would supervise his policies, that he would only receive the salary of a teacher and that he sought to reduce the pay for congress and ministers by half.
Trailing throughout the entire campaign, he surged during the last weeks of the campaign and on election day, Castillo secured 18% of the vote in the first round, putting him in the first place of a crowded field of candidates. His success was attributed to focusing on the large difference of living standards between Lima and rural Peru, building support in countryside provinces. He would then face the second-place candidate, Keiko Fujimori, in the second round of voting to select the next Peruvian president. Fujimori had previously finished second place in the 2011 and 2016 general elections.
Approaching the second round of presidential elections, the Associated Press said that if Castillo were to become president, his policy proposals would be unlikely to be enacted, as the newly elected Congress of Peru is made of opposing parties, with his party having only over 37 of the 130 seats in congress. The Economist shared similar thoughts, writing that, due to the large divisions of parties in congress, whoever was elected into the presidency was expected to be weak due to the fractured congress.
After his victory in the first round, Castillo called for dialogue with other Peruvian political forces, including trade unions and Ronda Campesinas, in order to achieve political agreement, although he ruled out making a roadmap similar to Ollanta Humala's, during the 2016 general election. He established a political alliance with former left-wing presidential candidate Verónika Mendoza in May 2021, earning her support for his campaign.
During a tour of Mesa Redonda in the Lima district, Castillo was booed by Peruvian and Venezuelan merchants, with insults referring to him as Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela. Days later, a similar situation would happen in the city of Trujillo. During the campaign, Free Peru denounced that Castillo received anonymous death threats. In addition to this, the third-place candidate Rafael López Aliaga issued death threats at the end of a demonstration against Castillo's candidacy, shouting: "Death to communism! Death to Cerrón! Death to Castillo!"
On 18 May, Castillo presented in the Lima district of Puente Piedra the technical team for the coordination of his possible government, among which were the lawyers Dina Boluarte (candidate for the vice presidency), Ricardo López Risso and Julián Palacín, the sociologist Anahí Durand, former Congressman Juan Pari, physician Hernando Cevallos, economists Celeste Rosas Muñoz, Andrés Alencastre and Rolando Vela, nuclear physicists Modesto Montoya and Rolando Páucar, linguist Nila Vigil, epidemiologist Antonio Quispe, and teachers Carlos Gallardo Gómez, Marco Valera and Juan Raúl Cadillo León, as well as former Supreme Attorney Avelino Guillén. After visiting his Farvet laboratories in Chincha, Castillo apparently confirmed the incorporation to his technical team the veterinarian Manolo Fernández; however, this information was sent in a press release which he denied hours later in communication with Canal N, stating on RPP that he was upset by a false photo of him appearing during a Castillo rally.
Following Castillo's surprising success in the first round of elections, the S&P/BVL Peru General Index fell by 3.2% and the Peruvian sol saw its value drop 1.7%, its biggest loss since December 2017, during the first impeachment process against Pedro Pablo Kuczynski; in the week before the run-off vote, the sol continued to post historical lows against the U.S. dollar.
Former Bolivian President Evo Morales congratulated Castillo, stating that Castillo "won with our proposal" and that he had spoken to him on the phone previously. Former Uruguayan president José Mujica also shared approval of Castillo's success in the first round of elections, warning Castillo to "not fall into authoritarianism", while participating in a Facebook live video call with him. Colombian president Iván Duque and Ecuadorian president Guillermo Lasso congratulated Castillo on July for his proclamation.
On 2 June 2021, the Financial Times compared his style of leadership not to those seen in Cuba or Venezuela but suggested that his governing style would be more similar to that seen in Bolivia during the tenure of Evo Morales. The Financial Times also reported capital flight from the richest individuals and companies, although those allegations were not immediately confirmed. The New York Times reported his victory as the "clearest repudiation of the country’s establishment".
Castillo was officially designated as president-elect of Peru on 19 July 2021, a little over a week before he was to be inaugurated. Days before his designation, Castillo and his economic advisor Pedro Francke met with Ambassador Liang Yu at the Chinese embassy in Peru to discuss a more rapid introduction of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines in Peru. Most regional leaders and some in Europe, such as Pedro Sánchez of Spain, extended congratulations and wished Castillo the best on being the president of the bicentennial of Peru.
Analysts described Castillo as an agrarian leftist, populist, and socialist. He has said that he is not a communist and that he is not a Chavista. Described as far-left by multiple international news agencies, Castillo has distanced himself from far-leftists of the Marxist–Leninist Free Peru party that chose him as a candidate, stating that "the one who is going to govern is me" and there will be "no communism" in Peru under his government. Farid Kahhat of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru stated that Castillo has a limited relationship with Free Peru and separated himself from the party's leader, adding that "it is important to remember that Castillo is a candidate but not a party member. ... we might even say he is more conservative than the ideals of Perú Libre would suggest." He is frequently described as "socially conservative."
After winning the first round of presidential elections, Castillo presented his ideas in a more moderated manner, trying to maintain a balance between the leftist ideals of Free Peru and the consensus of Peruvians. The Economist wrote that Castillo "combines radical rhetoric with pragmatism", noting that he worked with both left and right-wing groups, including Keiko Fujimori's Popular Force, during the 2017 teachers strike. While promoting left-wing values on government spending and foreign policy, he trends more right-wing on social issues, directly expressing opposition to the "legalization of abortion, same-sex marriage, or euthanasia" and the "gender equality approach" in education.
According to Kahhat, Castillo's economic policy was created in collaboration with Verónika Mendoza, utilizing New Peru economists that have an established history of holding public office. His main economic advisor is Pedro Francke, a former World Bank and Central Reserve Bank of Peru economist who has assisted Castillo with moderating his policies. Castillo expressed his interest in moving Peru more towards a mixed economy.
If elected, Castillo promised in a speech directed towards foreign businesses that he would not nationalize companies in Peru, saying that those seeking the nationalization of industry within his party were part of the "leftist fringe". Some of his main economic proposals are to regulate "monopolies and oligopolies" in order to establish a mixed economy and to renegotiate tax breaks with large businesses. Castillo has made statements supporting increased regulation, directly criticizing Chilean companies Saga Falabella and LATAM Airlines Group. Citing the fact that LATAM owes Peru nearly $1 billion, Castillo called for a state-owned national airline. In an interview with CNN, he stated that if elected, he would hold discussions with businesses to ensure "that 70% of profits must remain for the country and that they take 30%, not the other way around as it is today." Kahhat explained that Castillo proposed the taxation of windfall profits, with the professor describing such profits as "the product of good international prices and not the merit of the company itself", with such policies being similar to those enacted by President of the United States Jimmy Carter.
Castillo proposed increasing the education and health budgets to at least ten percent of Peru's GDP. He received criticism[from whom?] for not clarifying how these policies would be funded, due to the fact that Peru's existing government budget is already fourteen percent of the country's GDP. Castillo believes that internet access should be a right for all Peruvians. He proposed a science and technology ministry that would immediately be tasked with combating the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru.
Regarding mining in Peru, Castillo supports the extraction of minerals throughout Peru "where nature and the population allow it" and welcomes international investment regarding these projects. For agrarian reform, Castillo proposed making Peru less reliant on importing agricultural goods and incentivizing food production for local use instead of solely for export.
A main proposal of Castillo is to elect a Constituent Assembly to replace the constitution inherited from Alberto Fujimori's regime, with Castillo saying "it serves to defend corruption at macro scale." Castillo has said that, in his efforts to rewrite the Peruvian constitution, he would respect the rule of law by utilizing existing constitutional processes and call for a constitutional referendum to determine whether a constituent assembly should be formed or not; to hold a referendum, Castillo would require a majority vote from congress, which is unlikely and limits his chances of changing the constitution. All proposed reforms would also have to be approved by congress.
At an event called “ Citizen Proclamation – Oath for Democracy”, Castillo signed an agreement vowing to respect democracy, stating “ I swear with all my heart, I do swear with all my heart, that I will respect true democracy and equal rights and opportunities of the Peruvian people, without any discrimination and favoritism”. Castillo also promised at the event to respect the presidential term limit of a five-year tenure, saying that if elected, he would not adjust mechanisms to extend the presidential period and would leave office on 28 July 2026. Other statements by Castillo included respecting the separation of powers within Peru's governmental bodies and recognizing the autonomy of constitutional entities.
Proposed social policies from Castillo include creating paramilitary groups and militarizing Peruvian youth in order to promote a revolutionary experience, calling for citizens to arm themselves in order to provide justice through "socialist administration." He has called for Peru to leave the American Convention on Human Rights and to reinstate the death penalty in the country. Castillo has also called for stricter regulations on the media in Peru as well.
According to Castillo, issues of abortion and LGBT rights in Peru "are not a priority." His "Socialist woman" proposal was described as "a deeply patriarchal, gender-normative view of society disguised under seemingly liberating language" by Javier Puente, assistant professor of Latin American Studies at Smith College, while the rest of his program did not include any policies regarding LGBT groups, vulnerable populations in Peru.
Castillo announced during his inauguration that youths who do not work or study would have to serve in the military. Currently, there is no mandatory service in Peru and it was unclear whether Castillo would introduce conscription.
Castillo defended the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, describing it as "a democratic government", while his Free Peru party has shared praise for the policies of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.
After winning the first round of presidential elections, Castillo stated regarding Venezuela that "[t]here is no Chavismo here", saying of President Maduro "if there is something he has to say concerning Peru, that he first fix his internal problems." He also called on Maduro to take Venezuelan refugees back to their native country, saying that Venezuelans arrived in Peru "to commit crimes." Castillo described the Venezuelan refugee crisis as an issue of "human trafficking", and said that he would give Venezuelans who commit crimes seventy-two hours to leave Peru.
During the intense periods of internal conflict in Peru in the 1980s and 1990s, the government, military, and media in Peru described any individual who was left on the political spectrum as being a threat to the nation, with many students, professors, union members, and peasants being jailed or killed for their political beliefs. Such sentiments continued for decades into the 2021 election, with Peru's right-wing elite and media organizations collaborating with Fujimori's campaign by appealing to fear when discussing Castillo, linking him to armed communist groups.
In 2017, Castillo's participation in the teacher's strike was criticized by Minister of the Interior Carlos Basombrío Iglesias, who stated that Castillo was involved with MOVADEF, a group consisting of former members of Shining Path. Castillo denied being involved with MOVADEF, or the more militant teachers' union faction CONARE, stating: "I have my ID at hand ... here in this place, in this teaching there is no space for those factions", and that if there were any MOVADEF-linked teachers in schools, the Ministry of Education was responsible because it hired the teachers. Claims linking Castillo to such groups have been refuted by Castillo himself and major media outlets, with The Guardian describing links to Shining Path as "incorrect", while the Associated Press said that allegations by Peruvian media of links to Shining Path were "unsupported." The Economist noted that at the same time Castillo allegedly worked with groups linked to Shining Path, he was also partnering with right-wing legislators from Popular Force, Keiko Fujimori's party, in the same capacity.
The newspaper Peru.21 accused Castillo of being linked to Shining Path, publishing documents purported to confirm Castillo's relationship with the movement. Peru.21 again raised Castillo's alleged links to the MOVADEF due to his participation in virtual meetings with the organization's leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru. Hamer Villena Zúñiga, the leader of the United Union of Workers in Education of Peru (SUTEP), subsequently stated that "Pedro Castillo's sister belongs to MOVADEF", referring to María Doraliza Castillo Terrones.
Complaint before the Public Ministry
According to Public Records, Castillo founded a company called Consorcio Chotano de Inversionistas Emprendedores JOP S.A.C., which he did not indicate in his resume presented to the JNE. Yeni Vilcatoma, a former congresswoman of the Fujimorist Popular Force party, filed a complaint with the public prosecution service for false statement in the administrative process, generic falsehood, and ideological falsehood, for which the prosecution opened a preliminary investigation, Within the context campaign of the second round, Keiko Fujimori distanced herself from Vilcatoma and denounced her saying: "I like to win political competitions on the field." Before the complaint, Castillo assured that he did not list the company because he did not remember it because it never operated; despite this, it is indicated that he invested 18,000 soles. This was made public after the complaint made by journalist and columnist Alfredo Vignolo, who later denounced that he received death threats through social networks by supporters of Castillo.
Castillo is married to Lilia Paredes, a teacher, and they have two children together. He is a Catholic, while his wife and children are evangelical. His family lives in a nine-room home in the Chugur District tending a farm with cows, pigs, corn, and sweet potatoes. Castillo often wears a straw hat called a chotano, a poncho, and sandals constructed from old tires.
|Year||Office||Party||Votes for Castillo||%||Outcome||Position|
|2002||Anguía Mayor's Office||Possible Peru||104||8.821%||not elected||4|
|2021||President of Peru (Second round)||Free Peru||8,836,380||50.126%||elected||1|
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Both candidates are socially conservative – opposed to abortion and gay marriage.
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Pedro Castillo, a far-left but socially conservative union leader and teacher
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two socially conservative candidates that oppose abortion, same-sex marriage and gender equality-based education.
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two autocratic and socially conservative candidates who each routinely flout social distancing at their campaign rallies and appear to have a shaky grasp of the science around the pandemic
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The Fujimori campaign seized upon the Vizcatán massacre to reiterate the “Castillo-as-extremist” narrative, pointing to alleged ties between Castillo and a Shining Path front group, MOVADEF, to suggest that Castillo bore some responsibility for the gruesome killings.
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