With rattles and smoke, Peru shamans predict election outcome

Peruvian shamans destroy campaign posters for presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori during a traditional ritual that predicted Fujimori's loss to Pedro Castillo in a run-off vote for the Peruvian presidency on June 6, in Lima, Peru, May 26, 2021. REUTERS/Angela Ponce

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian shamans, with rattles, smoke and pictures of the Andean country's two presidential candidates, are trying to read the tea leaves ahead of a polarized run-off election on June 6 with polls showing what could be a tight contest.

On a stony hillside in Lima, shamans burned incense and played musical instruments in colorful, traditional outfits to predict the winner from between socialist front-runner Pedro Castillo and conservative Keiko Fujimori.

The vote could tip copper-rich Peru sharply to the left, with Castillo pledging to rewrite the constitution and levy larger portions of mining wealth. Or it could herald the return of the controversial Fujimori family, which once dominated Peruvian politics but have been mired in corruption scandals.

"Two candidates will run in the Sunday vote and it has been seen that the next president will be a male, a man because we have looked at both," said Walter Alarcón, an indigenous shaman.

The shamans had photos of the candidates over which they blew smoke while shaking rattles and blowing a traditional wind instrument known as a pututo or caracola. Others threw flower petals or poked at the photos with metal swords.

Not all are agreed who would win. Recent polls have shown Castillo starting to widen his lead again after it had narrowed substantially over the last month.

"I have seen that Keiko (Fujimori) is the person who is going to reach the government and if she is going to arrive we have to make her do things in the best way and that is why we are here making offerings," said Ana María Simeón.

Juan de Dios, a shaman from Peru's north, a stronghold for Castillo, said he was fully supporting the socialist candidate, whose sudden rise has spooked markets and some miners, concerned about a sharp shift in the country's politics.

"We have come with incense with the four elements. ... We have come to raise up Mr. Pedro Castillo since many people do not want to see him or do not want him to govern Peru," said de Dios. "We have come to strengthen him with good winds."

The shaman said they had held a ritual using the Wachuma plant, which he said was often called the San Pedro cactus and is used in traditional Andean medicine.

"It is a sacred plant and through our visualization we have been able to see that a gentleman is going to be the president of Peru on June 6," he said.

(Reporting by Carlos Valdez; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Richard Chang)

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