By Marco Aquino and Marcelo Rochabrun
LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s two presidential candidates clashed on Sunday in a debate marked by offers to increase public spending, with right-wing Keiko Fujimori offering cash donations and bonuses as socialist Pedro Castillo proposed an increase in universal pensions.
The pair are neck and neck in opinion polls just a week before the country’s polarized presidential election on June 6. The poll could tip the country, a relative haven for investors in Latin America, strongly left-wing or see the controversy The Fujimori family returns to power.
Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori, on Sunday unveiled a proposal to solicit more contributions from the country’s mining companies. Castillo, an elementary school teacher, has already proposed to increase taxes for minors.
Mining is a key source of income and economic stability for Peru, whose public finances remain strong but have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with growing public debt and budget deficits.
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An Ipsos Peru poll on Sunday showed the two candidates were within 2 percentage points of each other and the gap between them was narrowing compared to the pollster’s previous survey.
The poll showed that Castillo’s support increased by 2 points to 42% of the vote. Fujimori, meanwhile, gained 3 points to 40% of the vote, with undecided voters making up 18% of those polled, up from 23% in the previous poll.
The survey was carried out on May 28 and covered 1,526 people, with a margin of error of 2.51%.
Another poll released on Sunday by the Institute for Peruvian Studies (IEP) showed that the share of people intending to vote for Castillo fell to 40.3%, from 44.8% previously, while support in Fujimori fell from 34.4% to 38.3%.
As the election race heated up, supporters of both took to the streets to support their candidate.
Thousands of Fujimori supporters marched in Lima on Saturday evening to reject what they called Castillo’s “communism”, while another march last week saw people protest Fujimori and corruption.
(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Editing by Adam Jourdan, Chizu Nomiyama and Kenneth Maxwell)
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