Peru makes a radical choice. Will it pan out?

Peru makes a radical choice. Will it pan out?

Fed up with years of political dysfunction, and wracked by the world's worst per capita COVID death toll, Peruvians have made a radical new choice for president.

After a day or so of nail-biting uncertainty, the results of Sunday's runoff appear to show that Pedro Castillo, a Marxist-leaning former schoolteacher who gets around on horseback and carries an oversized pencil with him everywhere, has edged out Keiko Fujimori, the authoritarian-minded daughter of the country's former dictator.


Who is this guy? Barely known to most Peruvians until just months ago, Castillo shocked the political establishment by advancing to the second round of the presidential election with just under 19 percent of the vote. Now he has won the top job by defeating Fujimori, a deeply unpopular yet immensely powerful rival who has lost her third bid for the presidency.

Castillo's victory is a backlash against the political class. Last November, mass street protests erupted when the country churned through three presidents in a single week following the impeachment of the incumbent for a vote-buying scandal years before he took office. With about half of Peruvian lawmakers currently under investigation for crimes from money laundering to homicide, it's no surprise that turnout was well below Peru's historical average for presidential votes, and that a (slim) majority of voters have placed their trust in an outsider like Castillo to stand up to Lima's corrupt swamp.

Indeed, Castillo styles himself as a man of the people. His signature is a cowboy hat, and his horsemanship is part of his rustic appeal. The giant pencil, meanwhile, symbolizes his party's focus on educating the rural poor. At the same time, he's also a pragmatist — to broaden his appeal beyond the countryside, in the past he has been willing to strike deals with players as wide-ranging as former members of the far-left Shining Path guerrilla movement on the one hand, and members of Fujimori's party on the other.

What are the next president's plans for Peru? Castillo has ambitious policy proposals, which his supporters say most Peruvians want: rewrite the constitution, spend 10 percent of GDP on education and health, and redistribute mining profits to fund social programs. Perhaps in a nod to more moderate voters, he's already walked back earlier calls to dissolve Congress if lawmakers don't agree to reform the charter, and nationalize strategic industries.

For his opponents, however, Castillo is another Hugo Chávez who will turn Peru into Venezuela by overturning three decades of pro-business reforms that have brought prosperity to the country. So far, the markets agree — the value of the Peruvian sol sank on Monday to its lowest value against the US dollar in seven years, and the stock market plunged more than seven percent.

Castillo's agenda will face tough roadblocks in a highly fragmented and dysfunctional Congress. His party only has 37 of the 130 seats in parliament, which is dominated by smaller right-wing formations that are more likely to cut deals with Fujimori. What's more, the bar for impeaching a Peruvian president has lately been set so low that if Castillo pushes lawmakers too hard, two-thirds of them could vote to oust Castillo over the vague charge of "moral incapacity."

And don't forget... Perú is still being pummeled by twin health and economic crises. Last week, the government revised its official COVID death toll upwards, to nearly triple the earlier number, which means the Andean country has the world's highest death rate per capita. And nearly 28 percent of Peruvians now live in poverty due to COVID, almost double the figure before the pandemic struck.

So, what comes next? It's hard to say. A polarizing election means that half of the country will be against whatever Castillo wants to do, while the other half will be willing to take to the streets if the political establishment stands in the way of the change they want.

Without a sweeping popular mandate or strong backing in parliament, there's only so much an outsider can do to stand up to an entrenched elite. Peruvians' frustration with dysfunction brought Castillo to power, but will he be able to change things?

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Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

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Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

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3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars.

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In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

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