A broken Peru marches on in crucial hours for its democracy

Thousands of supporters of both leftist Pedro Castillo and his rival Keiko Fujimori marched in Peru
AP/MARTIN MEJIA - Simpatizantes del candidato presidencial Pedro Castillo marchan en Lima, Perú, el 9 de junio de 2021

AP/MARTIN MEJIA  -   Supporters of presidential candidate Pedro Castillo march in Lima, Peru, on 9 June 2021.

Wearing a hat of colourful threads, an embroidered fringed costume and transparent sleeves, Reina Anita Chocahuaca dances the typical Arequipa dance of wititi among the thousands of demonstrators clamouring against Keiko Fujimori's attempt to reverse the results of Peru's presidential election.

Chocahuaca, a native of the Colca Valley, has been protesting for more than a week in the centre of Lima to ensure that his ballot is respected in favour of the virtual president-elect Pedro Castillo and to prevent at all costs the legal manoeuvres of Fujimorism, which has asked for some 200,000 votes to be annulled on the grounds of alleged fraud at the polling station, from succeeding.

"We want to assert the votes of our candidate, who has been elected by the people and is our president," the young woman told Efe from a corner of the historic Dos de Mayo square.

PHOTO/AFP - Simpatizantes del candidato presidencial de izquierda por el partido Perú Libre, Pedro Castillo, se manifiestan en la ciudad andina de Puno, cerca de la frontera con Bolivia, en Perú, el 14 de junio de 2021
PHOTO/AFP -  Supporters of the left-wing presidential candidate for the Peru Libre party, Pedro Castillo, demonstrate

Beside him, among the crowd, a man in a straw hat with a large brim holds a white-and-red flag that reads: "Peru, I love you. That's why I defend you".

The same banner, with the same message, can be seen among another tide of people gathered just a few blocks away, in the central Alameda 28 de Julio, where thousands of Fujimori supporters also gathered to "fight fraud", defend their votes and demand "transparency" in the recount from the electoral authorities.

Between one point and another, some absent-minded wanderers struggled to find out which side's slogans were echoed by those who, with diametrically opposed views, chanted in unison in favour of democracy and respect for the popular vote.

And the fact is that, tinged with a festive atmosphere, the colonial heritage layout of the Peruvian capital on Saturday showed both sides of the same coin.

REUTERS/SEBASTIAN CASTANEDA - Un manifestante sostiene una bandera con la leyenda "Keiko no va. Perú te repudia" durante una protesta contra la candidata presidencial derechista de Perú, Keiko Fujimori
REUTERS/SEBASTIAN CASTANEDA - A demonstrator holds a banner reading "Keiko no va. Peru repudiates you" during a protest against Peru's right-wing presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori.
Those with the pencil

Filled with red flags and T-shirts bearing the pencil symbol of the Peru Libre party, Castillo's supporters gathered from various corners of the country to demand respect for the 6 June results.

They know that these are crucial hours for their democracy and say they are committed to defending Peru from the Fujimori "coup d'état", which insists that fraud would have benefited the leftist candidate, who won the elections with 50.125% of the votes, just 44,000 more than his rival, the right-wing Fujimori.

Just arrived from the district of Rio Tambo, in the central region of Junin, teacher Abraham Acevedo, wearing a Peru Libre ribbon, chanted from the centre of the square at the top of his lungs: "Jurado, listen, proclaim Castillo president".

"We demand at once that the National Jury of Elections (JNE) make a decision and proclaim the president who has been elected by popular vote, who is Pedro Castillo," Acevedo told Efe.

This is what the man told Efe, before becoming mute when he saw Jadi arrive, a trans woman wearing an ingenious prisoner's costume, a reference to the 30 years in prison that the Public Prosecutor's Office is asking for the right-wing candidate, accused of money laundering.

REUTERS/SEBASTIAN CASTANEDA - Los candidatos presidenciales peruanos Pedro Castillo y Keiko Fujimori, que se enfrentarán en una segunda vuelta el 6 de junio, hacen un gesto tras firmar un "Pacto por la Democracia", en Lima, Perú
REUTERS/SEBASTIAN CASTANEDA - Peruvian presidential candidates Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori, who will face each other in a run-off on 6 June, make a gesture after signing a "Pact for Democracy" in Lima, Peru.

Jadi wore a long black and white striped dress, with her long black nails she clutched a handful of roses and dollars and, from time to time, she put on a face shield to which she had glued a Fujimori mask.

"Keiko has already stolen everything from us: democracy and freedom. She should recognise her defeat and stop causing social and political instability", he told Efe.

Elmer Vasquez, president of the peasant patrols in the town of Cuyumalca, in the northern province of Chota, where Castillo is from, said the same thing.

"A coup d'état is brewing and that is why we are fighting, demanding an immediate verdict from the JNE because the people have already elected their president", the peasant told Efe while holding a binza, an instrument made of bull hide used by the ronderos to "punish criminals and reintegrate them back into the community".

AP/GUADALUPE PARDO - Un partidario de la candidata presidencial Keiko Fujimori sostiene un cartel con un mensaje que dice en español: "Mi familia dice, No al Comunismo" durante una protesta contra el presunto fraude electoral, en Lima, Perú, el sábado 12 de junio de 2021
AP/GUADALUPE PARDO - A supporter of presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori holds a sign with a message that reads in Spanish: "My family says, No to Communism" during a protest against alleged electoral fraud, in Lima, Peru, Saturday, June 12, 2021.
The anti-pencil

Precisely on the grounds of providing security for his fellow citizens in the face of the threat, in his opinion, posed by the ronderos who had arrived in the Peruvian capital, Martín Barrueco from Lima stood up with a dozen of his colleagues at the rally point, Alameda 28 de julio, where the young men lined up side by side, wearing helmets, gloves and knee pads, each holding a wooden shield more than a metre high.

There, protected by helmets, gloves and knee pads, the young men lined up side by side, each holding a wooden shield more than a metre high.

They also carried flags bearing the Burgundy Cross, a viceregal banner, a Carlist or traditionalist symbol in 19th century Spain and, in more recent times, an emblem of some Spanish reactionary movements.

Around this group, thousands of posters called for "respecting the vote" and avoiding "communist fraud".

But the subtleties sometimes got lost: "Pedro Castillo, Lima repudiates you", several said. "The ONPE and the JNE have done shit", said another.

In fact, if it weren't for the slogans they chanted, it was more like a football victory celebration, with thousands of balloons and t-shirts of the red and white stripes that littered the landscape.

"We are not Fujimorists or Keikists. We believe in freedom and we are extremely anti-communist", one of them explained to Efe.

Next to him, Dora Infante from Lima and her friends waved a huge Peruvian flag in the air, with a cross in the centre.

"We demand democracy. Here there has been a clear, notorious, patent fraud. If Castillo wins, it will be a mockery for all the Peruvian people," the woman told Efe.