'No Chavismo here': Peru socialist candidate Castillo seeks to calm jittery markets

Presidential and parliamentary elections in Peru
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Marco Aquino and Maria Cervantes
·2 min read
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By Marco Aquino and Maria Cervantes

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian socialist presidential front-runner Pedro Castillo assured the Andean nation on Thursday he would not nationalize companies and would honor the rule of law, a move aimed at calming jittery markets after a second opinion poll showed his lead growing against right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori.

Castillo remains in pole position to win the presidency in a second round ballot set for June, according to a Datum International poll that showed him garnering 41% against 26% for former lawmaker and three-time presidential candidate Fujimori.

Peru's sprawling mining industry, the world's No.2 copper producer, has expressed some alarm about Castillo, who has gained increasing support in Peru's rural hinterlands and has proposed to redraft the country's constitution.

But Castillo blasted detractors, telling Radio Exitosa they had put words in his mouth. "I completely reject those that say that Pedro Castillo is going to nationalize," he said.

Though the poll revealed a yawning lead for Castillo, it also showed that 18% of those surveyed had yet to settle on a candidate, while 15% responded that they would annul their ballot or would not vote for any of the candidates.

Peru's sol currency plunged to an historic low on Thursday following the poll's release then recovered slightly to 3.755/3.759 to the dollar, a 1.24% drop. The Lima stock exchange tumbled also tumbled 2.2% on Thursday.

Castillo's Peru Libre party has promised in filings to the country's elections agency that it would nationalize "strategic sectors" of production, including the mining sector.

But Castillo rejected those proposals, which he attributed to the party's leftist fringe, and brushed off those who liken him to Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.

"There is no Chavismo here," Castillo said, referring to the brand of government installed by Maduro's socialist predecessor, Hugo Chavez. He urged Maduro to "first fix his own problems" before attempting to influence Peru. "The one who is going to govern is me," Castillo said.

Castillo's rival Fujimori, who has advocated pushing forward with Peru's free market economic model, said the front-runner's statements were contradictory.

"He is a real clone of Hugo Chavez," Fujimori said in a television interview. "He says one thing then does another."

(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Maria Cervantes; Writing by Dave Sherwood)