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Peru’s Castillo tells supporters to ‘stay vigilant’ as vote-counting tensions rise

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LIMA (Reuters) – Election activist Perro Pedro Castillo called on his supporters to remain vigilant on Friday as legal squabbles over ultra-narrow vote counting fueled tensions in the Andean nation with his seemingly ready-made Socialist party.

Photo Photo: Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo addresses supporters from the headquarters of the “Free Peru” party in Lima, Peru June 10, 2021. REUTERS / Liz Tasa

Castillo, an elementary school teacher who has garnered support from the poorest, rural Peruvians, raised concerns about plans by the opposition to cancel the votes and demanded clarity from the electoral body on the process.

“We urge the Peruvian people to remain vigilant,” he said.

The comments underscored growing tensions in the copper-rich nation that has been on detectors since Sunday’s vote. Castillo has 50.2% of the vote, just ahead of right-wing Keiko Fujimori, who has made baseless allegations of fraud.

Vladimir Cerron, the Marxist-Leninist leader of the Castillos Free Peru party, was even harsher, saying on Twitter that people should stand up in defense of the vote. He had previously claimed victory for Castillo in the election with a knife.

With close to 99.6% of the vote counted and only one set of contested votes to be added, Castillo was about 60,000 votes ahead of Fujimori.

The country’s electoral authority has not yet confirmed the victory, but most observers and some regional left-wing leaders, including from Argentina and Bolivia, have declared Castillo the winner, sparking protests by the Peruvian government.

Some presidents around the world are congratulating Pedro Castillo on his victory, in other words, he has strong international legitimacy, Cerron wrote.

RADICAL IMPACT

Cerron, a Cuban-trained surgeon and Marxist-Leninist, is a former regional governor who could not run for president himself as he has been convicted of corruption in the past and is seen as a more radical potential influence in Castillo.

Fujimori has not yet accepted the election with less than 100,000 votes remaining to be counted and her supporters have called for protests against the result.

The daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, she has doubled on unfounded allegations of fraud and members of her party have said they will not accept until all votes and complaints have been counted, which could take days.

Castillo himself has also stopped announcing himself the winner, though he said earlier this week that the party had assured him he would be the winner.

The election has divided Peruvians bitterly, with higher-income citizens supporting Fujimori while those with lower incomes supporting Castillo, including the country’s main mining regions, worlds no. 2 copper producers.

Castillo was not a member of the Free Peru party before his candidacy for the presidency. It is still unclear whether he will adopt a left-wing extremist stance on the economy if he is in power.

In recent days, he has recruited Pedro Francke, a moderate left-wing economist as his adviser, who has sought to foster a more market-friendly tone.

Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun and Marco AquinoEditing by Alistair Bell

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