Can an­other Fujimori win Peru’s pres­i­dency?

SURGE BY OP­PO­NENT MAKES RACE A TOSS-UP

Business Mirror - - THE WORLD - Los Angeles Times/ TNS

LIMA, Peru—Just 10 days ago, Keiko Fujimori seemed to have an in­sur­mount­able lead in the race for the pres­i­dency of Peru.

In an in­tense runoff cam­paign, Fujimori em­pha­sized her youth— she turned 41 in May— solid con­gres­sional back­ing and pop­ulist pro­pos­als, such as crack­ing down on ram­pant crime.

Her 77- year- old chal­lenger, Pe­dro Pablo Kuczyn­ski, had per­formed abysmally in the can­di­dates’ first de­bate and was hurt by his de­ci­sion to spend a week dur­ing the cam­paign in the United States to at­tend his daugh­ter’s col­lege grad­u­a­tion. But things have gone Kuczyn­ski’s way in re­cent days, and Sun­day’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is now too close to call, an­a­lysts here say.

Sur­veys taken in the cam­paign’s wan­ing days show that Fujimori, a con­gress­woman and daugh­ter of disgraced for­mer Pres­i­dent Al­berto Fujimori, and Kuczyn­ski, a for­mer finance min­is­ter, locked in a tech­ni­cal tie. Sev­eral fac­tors com­bined to buoy Kuczyn­ski’s can­di­dacy.

The for­mer World Bank econ­o­mist im­proved his per­for­mance with a more ag­gres­sive ap­proach in a sec­ond de­bate and re­ceived the back­ing of Veronika Men­doza, the so­cial­ist mem­ber of Congress who fin­ished third in April’s first round of vot­ing.

PPK, as Kuczyn­ski is known, also has picked up en­dorse­ments from well-known Peru­vians, in­clud­ing No­bel Prize-win­ning au­thor Mario Vargas Llosa, who ran for pres­i­dent against Fujimori’s fa­ther in 1990, and for­mer UN Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral Javier Perez de Cuel­lar.

Also in Kuczyn­ski’s fa­vor is many Peru­vians’ abid­ing an­i­mus to­ward Al­berto Fujimori, who was sen­tenced in 2009 to 25 years in pri­son on charges of crimes against hu­man­ity and cor­rup­tion.

He also has been ac­cused of ap­prov­ing the ster­il­iza­tion of 300,000 women, most of them in­dige­nous, dur­ing his time in of­fice from 1990 to 2000.

Resid­ual re­sent­ment against her fa­ther was blamed for Fujimori’s los­ing the pres­i­dency in 2011, when she was beaten in a runoff by Ol­lanta Hu­mala af­ter hand­ily win­ning the first round, much as she did in April against six op­po­nents. Fujimori cap­tured 40 per­cent of the vote and Kuczyn­ski 20 per­cent.

Last month Fujimori’s cam­paign had to deal with news re­ports that the US Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion ( DEA) was in­ves­ti­gat­ing one of her ad­vi­sors, Joaquin Ramirez, in con­nec­tion with a money- laun­der­ing scheme.

From Wash­ing­ton, the DEA is­sued a state­ment on May 16 say­ing that Fujimori “is not cur­rently, nor has been pre­vi­ously” in­ves­ti­gated, but the on­go­ing con­tro­versy that has been kept alive by op­po­si­tion me­dia has not helped her.

“My con­ver­sa­tions with wellplugged- in folks here sug­gest that there has been some sig­nif­i­cant move­ment to­ward PPK and that the lat­est polls show Keiko has lost all of the 5 [ per­cent] to 6 per­cent ad­van­tage she had just a few days ago,” said David Scott Palmer, a Bos­ton Univer­sity in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions pro­fes­sor and Peru ex­pert.

Who­ever wins, a new cen­trist pres­i­dent will re­place left- of- cen­ter in­cum­bent Hu­mala, con­tin­u­ing a re­cent trend by which left­ist regimes in Latin Amer­ica are be­ing re­placed by mar­ket-friendly lead­ers promis­ing fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity and bet­ter se­cu­rity.

Fujimori has worked to erase the stigma of her last name, promis­ing not to re­peat her im­pris­oned fa­ther’s au­thor­i­tar­ian ways, and to never grant him a par­don.

At the same time, she has lever­aged the pos­i­tive per­cep­tion many poor Peru­vians re­tain of him for hav­ing built schools, clin­ics and roads in ru­ral ar­eas and for van­quish­ing the Sendero Lu­mi­noso, or Shin­ing Path, rebel move­ment.

Her broad base of sup­port was il­lus­trated in April’s elec­tion when her party, Force Peru, won a 73seat ma­jor­ity in the 135- mem­ber congress. In what an­a­lysts de­scribe as pop­ulist moves, Fujimori has tried to bol­ster ru­ral sup­port by say­ing she would le­git­imize il­le­gal mining. Many Peru­vians prospect for gold il­le­gally in moun­tain ar­eas, and Fujimori has promised to for­mal­ize that busi­ness ac­tiv­ity.

She also has sought the sup­port of Peru’s siz­able con­ser­va­tive evan­gel­i­cal com­mu­nity by com­ing out against same- sex mar­riages.

But long­time Peru re­searcher Shane Hunt says Fujimori has grasped that the main is­sue for vot­ers dur­ing this elec­tion cy­cle is the coun­try’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity, a by- prod­uct of Peru’s role as a co­caine- traf­fick­ing hub.

Crime is an is­sue es­pe­cially im­por­tant to poor vot­ers, who suf­fer the brunt of the up­surge in vi­o­lence.

“She doesn’t talk about hu­man rights; she talks about get­ting tough on crim­i­nals, in­clud­ing build­ing five new high- al­ti­tude prisons and call­ing the army and navy into the fight,” said Hunt, who is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Bos­ton Univer­sity. “In other words, go­ing af­ter the crime prob­lem the way her fa­ther went af­ter the Sendero. By so do­ing, she cap­tures the anger of the poor.”

Hunt added that Fujimori and Kuczyn­ski have said lit­tle about mak­ing changes in Peru’s econ­omy, which is one of South Amer­ica’s best per­form­ing. The in­fla­tion rate of 3.5 per­cent is among the low­est in the region, and the econ­omy is ex­pand­ing at a 4- per­cent rate, growth that Fujimori has claimed as a legacy from her fa­ther’s re­forms.

“Who wants to fix it if it ain’t broke?” Hunt said.

Kuczyn­ski, mean­while, has over­come con­cerns about his age— con­cerns height­ened dur­ing his first de­bate with Fujimori when he came across as dod­der­ing and un­fo­cused. “Kuczyn­ski’s big­gest neg­a­tive has been his age. He just didn’t seem to have an­swers to Keiko’s crit­i­cisms or be able to stand his ground,” said Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal science Prof. Cyn­thia McClin­tock, com­ment­ing on the for­mer min­is­ter’s first de­bate per­for­mance.

But Kuczyn­ski ex­ploited Fujimori’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in what most ob­servers say was a good per­for­mance on May 29 in their sec­ond and fi­nal de­bate. He at­tacked her for ad­viser Ramirez’s al­leged narco con­nec­tions and re­minded view­ers that her fa­ther was con­victed on charges of au­tho­riz­ing death squads and sug­gested he had a role in the mass ster­il­iza­tions.

“Sadly, there was a lot of cor­rup­tion in the gov­ern­ment of your fa­ther, and that’s one of the reasons he is a pris­oner to­day,” Kuczyn­ski said. While Bos­ton Univer­sity Prof. Palmer said Kuczyn­ski “def­i­nitely made up lost ground,” it re­mains to be seen whether that and the “DEA stuff will push him over the top.… It will cer­tainly be a close race.”

300K The num­ber of women for­mer Pres­i­dent Al­berto Fujimori has been ac­cused of hav­ing ster­il­ized from 1990 to 2000

AP/MARTIN ME­JIA

PERUVIAN shamans per­form a good luck rit­ual for the two pres­i­den­tial runoff can­di­dates, Keiko Fujimori (pic­tured in poster on right) and Pe­dro Pablo Kuczyn­ski in Lima, Peru, on May 30. The South Amer­i­can coun­try is gearing up for a tight June 5 runoff be­tween Keiko, the daugh­ter of jailed for­mer Pres­i­dent Al­berto Fujimori, and Kuczyn­ski, a for­mer World Bank econ­o­mist.

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