The radical left teacher Pedro Castillo is approaching the second round in Peru, according to the first polls | International

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A woman votes during the presidential elections this Sunday in Cusco (Peru).Stringer / EFE

The other Peru spoke in the first round of the presidential elections this Sunday. The Peru that does not live in Lima, the one that is not on Twitter and that nobody paid attention to during the electoral campaign, has managed to place a candidate that nobody saw reach the head of the electoral race. The radical left-wing union teacher, Pedro Castillo, has been the most voted candidate for president, according to the first known polls at the close of the polls. With 16.1% of the votes, Castillo already has one foot in the second round to be held in June, although the quick poll has a margin of error of three points. His opponent is still unknown. The conservatives Hernando de Soto and Keiko Fujimori (11.9%) and the populist Yohny Lescano (11%) are practically tied while waiting for the official count to advance.

Castillo voted this Sunday in Chota (Cajamarca) a thousand kilometers from Lima, on a horse that they had to hold because he got nervous when he was surrounded by a crowd. The school teacher, with great support in the center and south of the country, is a complete Martian for Lima society. In the capital, where a quarter of the Peruvian population resides (32.5 million inhabitants), the vote for the leader of Peru Libre barely reached 5% in the polls. "The people are wise, the people understand, I am committed to the people who have gone to the polls today to democratically reflect this," the candidate told reporters when the first results were known. Around him, hundreds of people celebrated the data as if the coronavirus were a thing of the past.

The deep territorial disconnection that exists in Peru, and which has been made manifest on this election day, also affects the largest city in the country. “I am very nervous that a candidate from the extreme left is one of the possible for the second round. If it happened with Keiko Fujimori, I would be forced to vote for her, something I never would have wanted. But she would not make Peru stagnate while Castillo is going to destroy the country for me, ”said 34-year-old Julia Valdivia at the gates of a school in the upper-class neighborhood of Miraflores (Lima). 23 kilometers from there, in the Villa El Salvador district, Ormilda Yamaní was queuing with an empty oxygen cylinder at one of the city's outlets. Her grandmother, infected with covid for three weeks, has such a low saturation that she needs constant oxygen. Yamaní goes twice a day to refill the bottle. "Sometimes I arrive at seven at night and they treat me at 10 in the morning." This Sunday, between comings and goings with the heavy tank, he went to vote for Castillo, whom he refers to as "the one with the pencil" because of the logo of his candidacy. "It seems to me that he has a good proposal for education," he explains before it is his turn.

A few meters from it, in the heart of this humble neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital, dozens of people queue to vote at the Príncipe de Asturias public school. There is Maria, a 36-year-old housewife, who has “marked for anyone” because none of them seem right to her. Jorge, 29, a mobile sales consultant, who voted for Hernando de Soto "because of his knowledge and because he said that with him the cost of the vaccine (from the covid) will be accessible for those who do not have it." De Soto's proposal is for the private sector to acquire the vaccines. There is also Nancy Urunkuy, 47 years old, but she does not come to vote. He comes to look for the father of his three children who left home three years ago and has never given him a sun to support them. "He lives around here, he has to show up," he says.

In the taxi back to Miraflores, the driver Romer Egusquiza receives the news that his cousin has died at home infected with coronavirus. "It's the family room that I bury," he says. “The people who are dying are those who have no money. You save yourself if you have money ”, he explains. In one of the companies that refills the oxygen tanks, a worker says that they open the phones for an hour in the afternoon to make appointments and that each day they receive more than 3,000 calls that crash the line.

Peru voted this Sunday at the worst moment of the pandemic, with the highest peak in daily deaths, more than 380 according to official figures, in which Egusquiza's cousin was surely not. He, who voted in the afternoon, assures that he is going to "vitiate his vote", cross everything out so that it is invalidated.

The political scientist José Incio explains by telephone that in such fragmented elections, the candidate Pedro Castillo has attracted the vote of a type of electorate “that is not averse to risk, that wants something different and hopes to find a solution to their most specific needs , which the current system has not helped ”. For the researcher, the support for the candidate should be read "as an identity claim". "If an alien came to Peru and only watched television, he would think that all Peruvians are like those who are seen there, half European, and it is not like that," he adds.

Rural teacher Pedro Castillo Terrones, 51, was born in Cajamarca, one of the poorest regions of Peru in the last decade, despite having the largest gold mine in South America. The leader of the teachers' union has been, since 1995, a primary school teacher at school 10465 in the center of the town of Puña, in the province of Chota, in the north of the country, where he was born. This Sunday, before going to vote, he explained to the press that in his community they will not buy most of the food because they work the land or raise farm animals.

The radical left politician proposes to overthrow the Constitutional Court if he comes to power and has openly manifested himself against abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia and the gender approach in school.

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