Peru mulls dark past as Fujimori daughter leads vote polls

April 8, 2016 12:54 pm
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 Peruvian presidential candidate for the Fuerza Popular (Popular Force) party, Keiko Fujimori, dances for the crowds at election rallies, but it is her name that most grabs attention/AFP

Peruvian presidential candidate for the Fuerza Popular (Popular Force) party, Keiko Fujimori, dances for the crowds at election rallies, but it is her name that most grabs attention/AFP

, LIMA, Peru, Apr 8 – Peruvians vote Sunday on whether Keiko Fujimori, daughter of a former president jailed for massacres, should become their first female head of state in a divisive national election.

Alberto Fujimori’s dark decade in power from 1990-2000 lives in the memory of many Peruvians, but that has not stopped Keiko from rising to top the opinion polls at the head of her Popular Force party.

Overview
  • Fujimori has promised to safeguard human rights, discreetly distancing herself from the dark side of her father's legacy while also evoking his firmness on security.
  • Opinion polls indicate she will win about a third of the vote in Sunday's first-round vote, short of the majority needed to win outright.
  • Alberto Fujimori, now 77, is in jail for crimes against humanity for ordering the massacre of 25 people he said were terrorists in 1991 and 1992.

Wearing jeans and a white shirt, the 40-year-old conservative candidate danced down a catwalk in a cloud of red confetti at her closing campaign rally on Thursday.

She repeated her electoral promises to put more police on the streets and build more prisons, roads and airports and give tax breaks to small-time businesses.

“I have a firm conviction that with God’s help I will become the first woman president of Peru,” she told thousands of supporters waving orange flags.

“I am wearing the trousers when it comes to ending crime.”

Her leftist rival Veronika Mendoza meanwhile rallied supporters in central Lima.

Pro-business contender Pedro Pablo Kuczynski played folk music on the flute for supporters on Wednesday night as his campaign drew to a close.

“We are a great country, with tremendous potential. We have to take advantage of that and not waste time,” he said.

‘War of fear’

The election has laid bare divisions among voters who distrust Keiko for her father’s record and her supporters who say outgoing leftist president Ollanta Humala has not done enough to boost Peru’s fortunes.

The country’s economy is growing more strongly than most of its neighbors, but not as fast as it did during the 1990s boom under Fujimori, who liberalized the economy.

Meanwhile supporters see her as a firm hand to fight crime.

Opinion polls indicate she will win about a third of the vote in Sunday’s first-round vote, short of the majority needed to win outright.

That will send her into a runoff vote against one of her opponents: former Wall Street banker Kuczynski, 77, or congresswoman Mendoza, 35.

They each have around 15 percent of the vote, according to polls.

“There is a war of fear and hatred against us, because (our opponents) know that we are one step away from the second round,” Mendoza told supporters.

Polls have been mixed on whether Fujimori would win a runoff.

Outliving the Fujimori name

Fujimori has promised to safeguard human rights, discreetly distancing herself from the dark side of her father’s legacy while also evoking his firmness on security.

“Popular Front has transformed into a party that will last beyond one first name and family name,” she told the yelling crowd as they waved orange flags.

Alberto Fujimori, now 77, is in jail for crimes against humanity for ordering the massacre of 25 people he said were terrorists in 1991 and 1992.

Twenty five years on, some say his record means you can’t trust a Fujimori.

“I find it incredible that she could be president,” said one voter in Lima, Diego Ramirez, 25, who works in a bank.

“Her father was corrupt and a killer. She didn’t do anything as a congresswoman. All she has is her family name.”

But Fujimori senior won the love of many for stamping out the Shining Path, a communist guerrilla group that carried out attacks and kidnappings.

Even though he was convicted for massacres and corruption, many voters harbor nostalgia for him and want Keiko to follow in his footsteps.

“I trust in her because she is going to change Peru and raise it up,” said Jose Luis Venancio, a 39-year-old tradesman, at Thursday’s rally.

“For me, her father was the best president Peru has had.”

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