Castillo looks past election row that delayed naming as president-elect
LIMA－Left-wing politician Pedro Castillo was proclaimed Peru's president-elect on Monday, six weeks after a polarizing vote brought claims of electoral fraud from his right-wing rival, Keiko Fujimori.
With the result finally declared in his favor, the 51-year-old trade unionist's victory leaves Fujimori facing an imminent corruption trial.
"On behalf of my family, I would like to salute the electoral authorities... and also to salute the political parties that have taken part in this democratic celebration," Castillo, a former rural teacher, told supporters gathered at the headquarters of his Peru Libre (Free Peru) party in Lima.
"Dear compatriots, I bring here an open heart for each and every one of you," he declared from the balcony after Jorge Luis Salas, head of the National Elections Jury of Peru, or JNE, announced his victory in a brief virtual ceremony.
In a gesture to Fujimori, 46, the president-elect urged her to help "take the country forward" and said he held "no resentment" despite the many attacks he had fielded in recent weeks.
A crowd of hundreds that had spent weeks outside the JNE headquarters to support Castillo broke out in celebration at the news.
"Finally, we have a president," said Rosa Huaman, a 27-year-old Castillo supporter among the chanting crowd.
The JNE validated the vote count by the ONPE elections body, which had given Castillo 50.12 percent of the ballots cast, nearly 44,000 more than Fujimori－most of whose objections the jury dismissed.
Fujimori had pledged earlier on Monday to recognize the result. She had claimed fraud despite observers from the Organization of American States, the United States and the European Union declaring the vote free and fair. Her backers had called for fresh elections.
The US embassy in Lima congratulated Peruvians on successful elections. In a tweet, it said: "We value our close ties with Peru and hope to strengthen them with President-elect Pedro Castillo after his inauguration on July 28."
The government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro－whose 2018 reelection the US does not recognize－congratulated Castillo in a statement.
Maduro wished Castillo "much wisdom" in his new role and looked forward "to work hand in hand with the new government in Peru", the statement said.
This was Fujimori's third stab at presidency, with failed bids in 2011 and 2016 giving rise to charges she took money from scandal-tainted Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
Prosecutors have said they would seek a 30-year jail term for Fujimori.
Under Peruvian law, had she become president the case against her would have been suspended until after her term.
Castillo in April surprised many by taking the lead in the race to become Peru's fifth president in three years, edging out 17 other candidates.
He faced Fujimori in the runoff with promises to improve the fate of Peruvians contending with a recession worsened by the pandemic, rising unemployment and poverty.
Castillo has targeted creating a million jobs in a year, and said Peru's mining and hydrocarbon riches "must be nationalized".
Peru is a major 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 also promised public investment to reactivate the economy through infrastructure projects and public procurement from small businesses, and to "curb imports that affect the national industry and peasantry".
Castillo's swearing-in on July 28 will take place amid political instability. A series of crises and corruption scandals saw three different leaders in office in a week last November.
Seven of the country's last 10 leaders have either been convicted or are under investigation for graft.