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Blinken congratulates Peru's president-elect

Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Peru's president-elect Pedro Castillo on Wednesday, after he was declared the winner of the country's presidential election following a six-week vote count.

Castillo was officially named the winner of the June 6 runoff election Monday, after the count became the longest in 40 years, according to The Associated Press.

In a statement on Tuesday, Blinken congratulated the people of Peru for "making their voices heard in free and fair presidential and legislative elections."

"We commend the many officials, public servants, and volunteers whose dedication made the vote and certification possible under challenging conditions presented by COVID-19," Blinken said.

Blinken added the U.S. is "eager to work with President-Elect Castillo's administration to strengthen the U.S.-Peru relationship and move our nations toward a better future."

"We look forward to the successful transfer of power to the new administration on July 28, 2021 - Peru's Bicentennial - a fitting occasion to celebrate Peru's independence.  Together we can ensure that democracy delivers greater opportunities to our countries' citizens," he concluded.

Castillo, a teacher who ran as a left-wing candidate, won by 44,000 votes over right-wing opponent Keiko Fujimori, according to The Washington Post. Nearly 19 million votes were cast.

The Post reported that Fujimori's lawyers made last-ditch legal challenges to get more than 200,000 votes thrown out, citing unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Fujimori finally acknowledged her defeat just before the results were announced, saying, "that is what the law and the constitution that I have sworn to defend order," the Post reported. Still, she said Castillo's victory was "illegitimate."

AP noted that Monday's defeat was the third for Fujimori, who's father is former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.

Castillo will be taking over for interim President Francisco Sagasti, who was sworn in less than a week after then-interim President Manuel Merino resigned in November amid mass demonstrations, BBC reported at the time.

Merino, who was the speaker of Congress, became interim president after former President Martin Vizcarra was impeached over bribery allegations, BBC noted.

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