They were not known to a large part of the voters in Peru. But the teacher networks were key to disseminating the proposals of Pedro Castillo, this rural teacher who cherishes the dream of becoming the next president of the country.
When the leftist candidate surprised by winning the first round of the general elections on April 11, ahead of the right-wing Keiko Fujimori and a handful of political acquaintances, his victory was quickly related to the discontent of the provinces at the centralism of Lima, the failure of the economic model and the harsh impact of the pandemic in the country.
However, there were few who highlighted the support it received from the teachers, who bring together some 450,000 members in their main union and enjoy great authority and respect in the interior of the country, where Castillo has a large electoral pool.
The strength of teacher unions
“Definitely, the teachers’ unions have had a decisive weight in Castillo’s victory in the first round, because simply and simply they are scattered throughout the country, they have an organization formed for decades, “the writer and journalist Hugo Coya remarked to the EFE agency.
Pedro Castillo, on a horse, to go to vote on April 11 in the first electoral round, in Cajamarca, Peru. Photo: REUTERS
A similar opinion is held by the political scientist Gelin Espinoza, who from the southern region of Ayacucho confirmed to EFE that the respect that is had for teachers in the most remote areas of the country “plays a fundamental role, because it is a reference in those places.”
In a country with large economic and social gaps Like Peru, education is an instrument to improve living conditions and social advancement, so a teacher can have more respect “than any authority, than any mayor or any official,” Coya said.
A sample of this consideration is given daily by Castillo’s followers, who in all their acts they present him as “the teacher”, a detail that has been given little importance in large cities.
Pedro Castillo has the support of rural areas and teachers in Peru. Photo: EFE
Teachers in Congress
Nor has there been much emphasis on the fact that approximately half of the 37 members of the caucus that Castillo’s Peru Libre party will have in Congress will be teachers.
In that sense, Espinoza said that in areas where there are only one or two schools, teachers maintain a “fairly strong and close” communication network with the population, which shows their great dissatisfaction with the notorious shortcomings and deficiencies in accessing virtual education in the midst of the pandemic.
“There is great discontent, great discontent with the system and with the central government for these shortcomings, which are not recent, which are not current, and which Castillo has channeled well because he knows them,” the political scientist remarked.
Politician and trade unionist
Although before these elections Castillo was only known as a union representative of the teachers, he was also a member of Peru Posible, the party of former president Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), and was a member of the peasant rounds, the civil organizations that provide security in the peoples of the Andes.
“All this has contributed to carve out this figure, further away from urban centers and the media,” Coya said, noting that in order to analyze his political rise, the economic crisis caused in Peru by the pandemic must also be considered.
Espinoza indicated that, under the current conditions, the “sacrifice involved in being a teacher and also working in very precarious schools” has generated greater recognition, and that his network of contacts contributes to transmitting the “hope that with Castillo things will go better “.
In all this, he added, local radio stations played a very important role, which have occupied the news space in the face of the rejection of many residents of the open support of the mainstream media for the candidacy of Keiko Fujimori, Castillo’s rival in the second round of elections. next June 6.
A pencil, the symbol of Pedro Castillo’s campaign in Peru. Photo: AFP
Beyond these aspects, Coya also remarked that in the teachers’ union “there is a series of internal struggles, internal struggles”, despite which it maintains its good organization, while Castillo also faces problems and notorious demands.
These include requests for clarification of the alleged links of some members of your party with groups that are sympathetic or close to the terrorist group Shining Path, as well as the need to “demonstrate that it has the conditions as a political party to guarantee governability” in its country.
“Castillo, in my view, is a populist of the extreme left … and that will cost him a lot to form a broad-based team,” the analyst warned.
For this reason, he warned that in case of winning the elections will have as the “backbone” of its regime teachers’ organizations and unions, who will have to face the “great challenge” of making government decisions for their country.
“A trade union organization has other purposes, it does not know the State, it has few technical cadres, and it has also begun to promise a series of things that are not consistent with reality,” Coya noted before recalling that Castillo will not have a majority bench in the Congress that, in general lines, will be controlled by right-wing and conservative groups.