News ID: 92138
Publish Date : 06 July 2021 - 21:26

CARATA, Peru (Reuters) -- Maxima Ccalla, 60, an indigenous Quechua woman, has spent her life tilling the harsh soil in Peru’s Andean highlands, resigned to a fate far removed from the vast riches buried deep beneath her feet in seams of copper, zinc and gold.
The Andean communities in Ccalla’s home region of Puno and beyond have long clashed with the mining companies that dig mineral wealth out from the ground.
In recent interviews, many said they felt discriminated against and marginalized, and accused mining companies of polluting their water and soil.
But in a country still under the shadow of a colonial past, the rise of an outsider politician, the son of peasant farmers, is sparking hopes of change. It has also thrown a spotlight on stark divides between the rural Andean highlands and remote Amazon settlements, and the wealthier - and whiter - coastal cities.
Pedro Castillo, who wears a straw farmers hat and plays up his humble village roots, has pledged to give a voice to Peru’s “forgotten” rural groups and redistribute mineral wealth in the world’s second largest producer of copper.
“The looting is over, the theft is over, the assault is over, the discrimination against the Peruvian people is over,” he said at a speech in Cuzco.
The socially conservative leftist is on the cusp of being confirmed president after firing up the rural and indigenous vote, including in mineral-rich regions like Puno.
Ccalla is one of millions of mostly poor, rural Peruvians who voted for Castillo in the June 6 run-off election.
Wearing a colorful, traditional Montera hat against the sun, Ccalla’s demands are simple: she wants safe drinking water.
Castillo holds a slim lead, which is being scrutinized after legal pressure from his right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori who has alleged fraud and wants to disqualify some votes from rural areas.
Election observers said the vote was carried out cleanly.
The tension over the count has exposed a racial and socio-economic divide in the country.
Though Castillo does not identify as a member of an indigenous community, those who spoke to Reuters overwhelmingly said they could relate to him “as one of us” because of his humble upbringing and his background as a farmer.
As with Bolivia’s Evo Morales a decade ago, they hoped he would give greater representation to marginalized groups, and a more state-led approach to mining to drive higher social spending.

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