| 26 February 2024, Monday |

Fears of Bolivia-style coup in Peru as ex-officers reject Castillo’s win

A group of retired Peruvian officers have called on the country’s military to refuse to recognize the projected victory of socialist candidate Pedro Castillo in the presidential election unless vote fraud allegations are fully investigated.

The move appears to be a prelude to a Washington-orchestrated military coup similar to the one in neighboring Bolivia.

The plea was made in a letter that bore the names of at least 80 retired military personnel and arrived at the general headquarters of Peruvian armed forces on Friday.

The signatories appealed to military chiefs to “act rigorously” and “remedy” the “demonstrated irregularities” that took place during the vote or risk having an “illegal and illegitimate” commander in chief at the helm of the country.

Reacting to the letter, interim president Francisco Sagasti said he had ordered a thorough investigation into what he said could be “harmful conduct” against the rule of law and insisted the armed forces should remain neutral.

Peru held a second round of its presidential elections on June 6, with the electoral office’s vote count showing that Castillo was ahead of conservative candidate Keiko Fujimori by a razor thin margin.

The school teacher and political novice has rattled the copper-rich Andean nation’s traditionally political and business elite as he has won widespread grassroots backing for pledges to rewrite the constitution and redistribute mining wealth.

“The people have awakened,” Castillo told supporters recently, calling on citizens to recover the country for all Peruvians after a divisive election race.

The winner has yet to be officially declared as the party of Fujimori, the eldest daughter of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori, has called for the annulment of some 500,000 votes over fraud allegations, without providing any evidence.

This is while independent electoral observers said the vote was carried out cleanly, and Castillo’s Peru Libre party also stressed that there was no evidence of suspicious activity.

The ethics tribunal of the National Jury of Elections (JNE) of Peru, the body charged with overseeing the legality of the electoral process, announced on Thursday that throwing doubt on the results without evidence was “irresponsible.”

Washington, nevertheless, said that electoral authorities in the copper-rich Andean nation should be allowed to look into any fraud allegations.

“We look forward to working with the duly elected candidate,” a US State Department spokesperson said.

Many Latin American leaders have already celebrated Castillo’s victory despite the US casting aspersions and voicing support for Fujimori’s allegations.

Fujimori is plagued by accusations of accepting illegal campaign contributions when she first ran for the presidency in 2011. She spent over a year in jail pending a trial.

The US administrations have a long history of interference in political and economic affairs of the Latin American region, where they describe as their own backyard.

Evo Morales, who came to power as the Bolivian president in 2006, won the country’s presidential election for a fourth term in October 2019.