Peru socialist stretches lead in presidential race, poll shows

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LIMA, April 25 (Reuters) - Peruvian left-wing candidate Pedro Castillo has stretched his lead in the Andean country's presidential election race, according to a poll released Sunday, with almost double the level of support of conservative opponent Keiko Fujimori.

Castillo, who has pledged to draft a new constitution to give the state more control over the economy, was shown with 41.5% support in the poll by the Peruvian Studies Institute (IEP) published in newspaper La República.

Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, who supports keeping Peru's free-market model, had 21.5%, the biggest gap in polls so far ahead of the June 6 run-off vote. All polls have shown Castillo with a significant lead.

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The election will be an important crossroads for Peru, the world's second-largest copper producer, where the sudden emergence of Castillo, a teacher who has won support in the country's poorer regions, has rattled markets. read more

Peru's economy, which grew for years at one of the highest rates in Latin America, sank 11.12% last year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which is now surging again and straining the country's health services. (Graphic on global cases and deaths)

The IEP poll, a telephone survey of 1,367 people between April 17-21 with a margin of error of 2.65%, also showed that 21.2% of people said they would annul their ballot or vote "blank", while 15.7% remained undecided.

Castillo moved in recent days to cool market fears, saying he would not nationalize companies and strongly rejected comparisons made between him and other far-left Latin American leaders. read more

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Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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