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Peruvian Presidential Elections

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Anyone else following these?


Peru, like most of Latin America, has a two-round system. Dozens of candidates compete in the first round, and (unless one of those candidates achieves an absolute majority) the top two candidates compete in a second round. The first round happened on Sunday.


There were five strongish candidates:


-Ollanta Humala lost in the second round in 2006. He's a former military officer and a leftist. Critics say he'll bring Peru into Chavez's circle, but Humala says he wants closer relations with center-left countries like Brazil.


-Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, who was Peru's rightwing authoritarian president during the 1990s. Keiko became First Lady after Alberto stripped her mother of the title when she spoke out against his regime. She says her first order of business would be to liberate her father, who is in prison on murder and corruption charges.


-Alejandro Toledo was president between 2001 and 2006. He left office with approval ratings in the high teens or low twenties, but has become more popular after Peru's recent economic upswing was attributed in part to his policies. He's probably center-left.


-Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, known to Peruvians as PPK, was Toledo's prime minister. He's also been a Wall Street banker and an IMF economist. His platform is economically-oriented with an emphasis on neoliberal growth.


-Luis Castañeda was the mayor of Lima until late last year. He's a center-right candidate who was popular early in the election cycle, but most of his supporters switched their allegiances to PPK.


Essentially, you have two populists (Humala and Fujimori) and three more traditional politicians. In Lima, there was a lot of concern that both Humala and Fujimori would pass to the second round, but people couldn't agree whether Toledo or PPK would pose a stronger challenge to Fujimori. As a result, Humala passed to the second round with about 31 percent, and Fujimori passed with around 22 percent.


So now Peruvians have a choice that novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has called "a choice between cancer and AIDS": back Fujimori and risk returning to the horrors of the 90s, when death squads roamed the streets and killed anyone perceived to be a terrorist, or back Humala and risk losing democratic freedoms like that of the press. It's a really sticky situation for most of my friends in Lima. My friends in the Andes are actually pretty excited about a potential Humala administration, which they believe could distribute some of Peru's recent earnings away from the capital. For my part, I'm just terrified of another Fujimori presidency. And I don't love Humala, either.

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