Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Peru's Election: AIDS or Cancer for Colombia?

Ollanta Humala
A choice between AIDS and cancer is how Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa described the choice Peruvian voters face in the run-off presidential election June 5.

In the first round of voting in April, several centrist candidates divided their support, leaving two extremists carrying worrisome relationships: Ollanta Humala, a populist, nationalist who sometimes sounds like a more extreme version of Venezuela's Hugo Chavéz, and Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Peruvian ex-President Alberto Fujimori, who turned himself into a dictator and made corruption and human rights violations state policy and is now in a Peruvian prison.

Keiko Fujimori
Neither bodes well for Colombia: Humala is a leftist with a discourse resembling that of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who has apparently financed both Humala and Colombia's FARC guerrillas. With leftist governments on two of its borders, Colombia doesn't need a third such neighbor to sympathize and support Colombia's insurgents. On the other hand, Alberto Fujimori's right-hand man Vladimiro Montesinos, who headed Peru's intelligence service, received protection money from cocaine cartels and trafficked assault rifles to the FARC guerrillas. Some Peruvians suspect that if Keiko wins her father will be the real ruler.

This is a surprising situation for Peru. The country's economy has grown at 9 percent annualy - the fastest rate in South America - so you'd expect voters to choose another centrist who'll continue the existing economic and political policies. But too many centrist candidates divided that vote between them. The situation is also a testament to the fact that despite Peru's economic boom, many Peruvians live in poverty.

Perhaps the election winner will learn from others' mistakes. Recently, Humala has tried to distance himself from Hugo Chavez and Keiko Fujimori, who is leading in the polls, has tried to the same from her father's administration.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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