World Peru confronts a fork in the road as it chooses a new president

07:55  05 june  2021
07:55  05 june  2021 Source:   cnn.com

Peruvian voters face choice between 2 polarizing populists

  Peruvian voters face choice between 2 polarizing populists LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peruvian voters will choose between two polarizing populist candidates Sunday in a presidential runoff held as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter the Andean country and festering anger has led to fears of more political stability. Political novice Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori, making her third run for the presidency, have both promised COVID-19 vaccines for all and other strategies to alleviate the health emergency that has killed more than 180,000 people and pushed millions into poverty. The election follows a statistical revision from Peru's government that more than doubled the death toll previously acknowledged by officials.

Two candidates with drastically different visions for Peru 's future face off in a presidential run-off vote on Sunday, polarizing an electorate battered by the pandemic.

Peruvians must choose between the son of illiterate peasant farmers who pledges to upend the country’s free-market economy and the unpopular daughter of a 1990s autocrat, who faces jail on corruption allegations, when they vote on Sunday in the most polarised election in living memory. Rightwing Keiko Fujimori, 46, who narrowly lost in the previous two presidential runoff votes, is technically tied in opinion polls with Pedro Castillo, a former teachers’ union leader who belongs to the hard-left Peru Libre party and holds a lead of just two percentage points over his rival.

Two candidates with drastically different visions for Peru's future face off in a presidential run-off vote on Sunday, polarizing an electorate battered by the pandemic.

Keiko Fujimori wearing a hat: Keiko Fujimori (L) is facing off against Pedro Castillo for the Peruvian presidency. © AP/Pool/Gettty Images Keiko Fujimori (L) is facing off against Pedro Castillo for the Peruvian presidency.

Left-wing frontrunner Pedro Castillo is promising greater state control over markets and natural resources as part of a plan to bring the benefits of economic growth to Peru's poorest, while attempting to head off warnings that his policies will turn Peru into an economic basket case like Venezuela.

His rival, right-wing Keiko Fujimori, seeks to convince voters that Peru's existing economic and political system needs tweaking, not overhauling -- and that her presidency won't mean more of the corruption and human rights abuse claims which characterized her father Alberto Fujimori's rule from 1990-2000.

Charges, communism, COVID-19 and a controversial name in Peruvian politics define an election

  Charges, communism, COVID-19 and a controversial name in Peruvian politics define an election Sunday's presidential election in Peru comes as many citizens are losing hope for their economy and their democracy. Six of the last seven presidents have either been forced from office amid allegations of wrongdoing or have faced charges upon completing their terms. The country went through three presidents in a week last November amid fierce street demonstrations against the dysfunctional political class.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the US of double standards for its treatment of the Capitol rioters. He said it was wrong for the US to slam crackdowns on anti-government protests overseas, while prosecuting Americans with "political demands". Mr Putin also rebuked the West for its criticism of Russian authorities' response to anti-Kremlin demonstrations, including jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The Russian leader said protesters in Europe have faced an even tougher police response, with some shot in the eye by what he mockingly called "democratic rubber bullets".

President -elect Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal celebrate after a special session of the Knesset whereby Israeli lawmakers elected the new president , at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem June 2, 2021 © REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun. The vote comes as opposition parties draw ever nearer to ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has held the post for 12 years. An opposition coalition has been given until midnight on Wednesday to form a new government after Netanyahu himself failed to do so.

Peruvians are most concerned about how the country will recover from the pandemic, which has exposed rampant inequality that persists despite significant increases in gross domestic product (GDP) and decreases in average poverty rates in recent decades. Both candidates have proposed reforms related to the key mining sector, but Fujimori is relying on government benefit packages to attract voters while Castillo has floated structural changes to the economy.

Fujimori has promised massive spending to compensate every Peruvian family that lost someone to Covid-19 with 10,000 soles ($2,600), plus 10 billion soles ($2.6 billion) in loans to small businesses to aid recovery. Her promises include delivering free water to communities not served by the main supply grids and granting two million land titles.

Peru's presidential runoff election too close to call

  Peru's presidential runoff election too close to call With 94% of ballots tallied, leftist Pedro Castillo had 50.07% of the vote; conservative Keiko Fujimori had 49.92%, according to official results. This is Fujimori’s third run for president, a role her father held in the 1990s. The figures released by Peru’s elections agency, the National Office of Electoral Processes, included almost all votes cast near the country’s electoral processing centers. The agency was still waiting for the arrival of votes from remote rural areas and abroad.Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

At the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin was asked whether Russia would land a plane from London if a wanted person was on board. Journalist Stas Natanzon asked the Russian president : 'Russia has its own list of wanted criminals. Vladimir Putin (pictured) refused to guarantee that he Belarusian leader Lukashenko has been condemned with sanctions imposed by the West for the act of 'state piracy' in forcing down the tourist flight as it overflew Belarus. Ryanair flight FR4978 had been flying from Athens in Greece to Vilnius in Lithuania when it was forced to make an emergency

Elizabeth's many prime ministers have never been indiscrete, and they've all spoken highly of their weekly audiences with her. In 2014, David Cameron told the BBC, "I think prime ministers find it very valuable to try and explain the difficult decisions and problems the country faces in the presence of someone who has heard and seen all these problems before." Obviously, he's pretty close to one particular ex-commander-in-chief, but he did reveal at a CNN town hall in February that he has spent time with presidential historians and feels a "sense of history" living at the White House.

Meanwhile, Castillo has promised to cancel major mining projects in Conga and Tingo Maria, reform the pension system, decentralize public universities and create a ministry of science and technology to boost industrialization.

"We are going to recover the wealth with the re-negotiation of contracts with large companies, with mining companies that take the country's wealth," he said. "How is it possible that in such a rich country there is so much misery, so much inequality, and only the biggest profit, even if they don't work."

Schoolteacher vs. political scion

"At the moment in Peru, in the middle of a health crisis and an economic crisis, there is a sort of competition of populist proposals," said Peruvian political analyst Francisco Tuesta, who told CNN that increasingly tight polling has encouraged the candidates to make offers they think will attract voters.

Peruvians head to polls to elect president, divided by class and geography

  Peruvians head to polls to elect president, divided by class and geography Peruvians head to polls to elect president, divided by class and geographyLIMA/TACABAMBA, Peru (Reuters) - Peruvians will pick a president on Sunday in an election that has bitterly divided them by class and geography, with urban and higher-income citizens preferring right-wing Keiko Fujimori while the rural poor support leftist political novice Pedro Castillo.

With modern roads , bridges, highways, broadband, ports and airports as a new foundation for economic growth. With pipes that transport clean water to every community. With 5 million new manufacturing and technology jobs so the future is made in America. An opportunity for America to lead the world in clean energy and create millions of new good-paying jobs in the process. And we can pay for these investments by ending loopholes and the president 's .3 trillion tax giveaway to the wealthiest 1 percent and the biggest, most profitable corporations, some of which pay no tax at all.

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A schoolteacher and union leader, Castillo enjoys strong support outside of Peru's capital, Lima, where more people struggle to access public services such as healthcare and education, attracting voters who want change.

Fujimori, who dominates Lima -- home to around one-third of the Peruvian population -- has meanwhile drawn together voters for whom the current system is working and who want to keep the left out of power.

She received 13.36% of votes in the first round, compared to 19.09% for Castillo, but polls leading up to the second round of voting shows the gap is narrowing. A May 28 poll from Ipsos for El Comercio newspaper showed a narrowing edge for Castillo, with a technical draw within the margin of error: 51.1% for the left-wing candidate against 48.9% for Fujimori.

text: Castillo supporters carry giant pencils, symbol of the candidate's party. © Raul Sifuentes/Getty Images Castillo supporters carry giant pencils, symbol of the candidate's party.

While second-round campaigns are typically very polarized, this one is "extremely polarized," Tuesta told CNN. "It's a faceoff between almost two extremes of the political spectrum," he said. "The political center was defeated in the first round."

Peru polls: Fujimori edges ahead but lead is narrow

  Peru polls: Fujimori edges ahead but lead is narrow Keiko Fujimori has edged ahead of her left-wing rival Pedro Castillo as the official count continues.With more than 75% of votes counted, Ms Fujimori had a lead of 3.9 percentage points over newcomer Pedro Castillo.

The choice comes to Peruvian voters after period of extreme political volatility. Last year, current interim-President Francisco Sagasti became the country's fourth president in less than five years after Congress voted to oust popular ex-president Martin Vizcarra and Vizcarra's replacement, Manuel Merino, resigned.

It also follows a devastating experience of Covid-19. Peruvian officials recently revealed new data showing that the country has suffered the worst Covid-19 death rate per capita in the world. The early days of Peru's vaccine rollout were also marred by scandal, with allegations of elites jumping the line, though Sagasti has since managed to sign deals for a supply of vaccines to come later this year.

a person holding a sign: Fujimori supporters carry signs which read © Martin Mejia/AP Fujimori supporters carry signs which read "No to communism."

Is Peru ready for a leftist?

More than anything, economic concerns have overshadowed second-round campaigning. Peru's economy contracted 11.1% in 2020, pushing almost two million people into poverty, according to the World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/peru/overview

"No more poor people in a rich country," has been one of Castillo's rallying cries on the campaign trail, where he has also protested about unfair treatment in the Lima-centric national media. His tour of the country has attracted huge crowds to mass gatherings and he has met with the European Union's ambassador to Peru Diego Mellado to discuss democracy, private investment and scientific cooperation, according to the candidate's Twitter account.

Neoliberal or Marxist? Polarized Peru faces volatile future either way

  Neoliberal or Marxist? Polarized Peru faces volatile future either way Neoliberal or Marxist? Polarized Peru faces volatile future either wayLIMA (Reuters) - Peru has had a turbulent year. The Andean nation has churned through three presidents since late 2020, has the world's highest per capita COVID-19 death toll, and experienced its worst economic crash in three decades.

Tuesta tells CNN that this is the first time a presidential candidate has positioned himself so far to the left in Peru, where communism is often associated with the Shining Path guerrilla group. While he emphasized that there are very few similarities between Castillo and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, Peruvian history means voters are wary of leftists. "Peru is so polarized that anyone who doesn't support Keiko Fujimori is criticized as a communist," said Tuesta.

Indeed, Castillo's first round success has rallied some unlikely allies to Fujimori's cause, even bringing an end to a historic enmity between Fujimori and influential public intellectual and Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, who has spoken repeatedly of his support for the right-wing candidate despite previously vowing never to vote for a member of the Fujimori family. She has also welcomed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to Peru, who warned about the country becoming "another Venezuela" if Castillo wins, a common attack line against the left in Latin America.

Whichever candidate wins will have to work with a fragmented unicameral congress, which has contributed to political instability in the last five years. Castillo's Peru's Libre party will have more seats in the new Parliament, but Fujimori could win more allies once in power.

The legislature will be dominated by right-wing groups, which will make it easier for Fujimori to form a coalition than Castillo, according to Tuesta. "It would be a weak minority government," he said of a possible Castillo presidency.

Peru Elections See Country's Future on Knife-Edge in Close Race

  Peru Elections See Country's Future on Knife-Edge in Close Race The election has pitted a right-wing former congresswoman against a leftist rural school teacher.As the count remains underway, Peru's National Office of Electoral Processes reported an official tally of 93 percent of votes, placing right-wing former congresswoman Keiko Fujimori in the lead with 50 percent of the vote. That's just a sliver above the 49.9 percent gained by educator Pedro Castillo, who leads the socialist Free Peru party.

Whoever wins, political instability could worsen under the next government, Tuesta also warns, as congressional groups tend to divide over the course of a five-year term. "It's hard for a government to rely on a coalition in order to guarantee stability for five years," he said. "In Peru next year means long-term, here the game is played on a very short-term basis."

a man and a woman standing in a room: The candidates debated each other on May 30 in the city of Arequipa. © Sebastian Castañeda/Pool/Getty Images The candidates debated each other on May 30 in the city of Arequipa.

Many voters blame Fujimori for the recent instability, added Tuesta, as her party was by far the largest in the outgoing congress. She has acknowledged her role on the campaign trail.

"I recognize that in the recent past, my party and I were not up to the task," she said during a press conference in Arequipa on May 30. "That is why without any excuse today I apologize to each and every one of those who have felt affected or disappointed by us at some point, and I do so with humility without any reservation because I know very well that there are still many doubts about my candidacy."

Some of these doubts are no doubt connected to accusations of corruption, a hot button issue for Peruvian voters, against Fujimori. She is the subject of a long-running corruption investigation and prosecutors recently asked a court for a 30-year jail term on charges linked to organized crime and money laundering. She has denied the allegations.

While Fujimori's history counts against her, she has struck a conciliatory tone in recent weeks an attempt to overhaul Castillo's lead in the polls. "I want to be president of Peru so as to build on and multiply, not to diminish and divide," said Fujimori during the presidential debate on May 30. On Thursday, in a Facebook Live broadcast surrounded by his technical advisors, Castillo promised that he would uphold the Constitution and respect the political system that so far has brought him so close to lead the country -- or not.

On Sunday, Peruvians get to decide whether to give the controversial Fujimori dynasty another turn at the country's helm or embark on a new path with Castillo.

In Peru's hinterland, a town battles world's worst COVID-19 outbreak .
In Peru's hinterland, a town battles world's worst COVID-19 outbreakCHOTA, Peru (Reuters) - Set among green hills in Peru's rural north, the town of Chota is close to collapse under the weight of COVID-19 as the Andean nation battles the world's deadliest outbreak of the virus.

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