Peru went to elections on Sunday, and despite a growth rate and foreign investment rate that would be the envy of many countries, the latest polls show that the June 5th run off may pit a Hugo Chavez-type radical nationalist and the daughter of a former president imprisoned for human rights violations.
Peru has recorded a 6.3% annual growth rate thanks to its business friendly policy, but it is precisely this policy that Ollanta Humala, a former Lieutenant Colonel who previously expressed sympathy with the Bolivarian socialism of Chavez,.wants to stop. The Chavez affiliation damaged Humala when he ran in 2006, as did Chavez' threat that he would break relations with Peru if somebody else was elected. It proved to be a boomerang.
Now both are being more discrete and Humala claims to have moderated his views. Daniel Ortega however played the very same game in Nicaragua and the moderate turned out to be the old Sandanista once he was elected.
Humala, according to the polls was leading, but the runner up in the polls is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former and now imprisoned president Alberto Fujimori.
Peru's Nobel laureate Mario Vargas llosa called such a matchup a catastrophe and no less than a choice between AIDS and terminal cancer. The run off from hell would be the product of two factors- dissatisfaction and disunity.
Growth has not been evenly spread amongst the entire population and many of the poor feel let out. This has been the fuel of the Humala campaign. Fujimori has appealed to the law and order vote that is disgruntled by the rising crime rate. Fujimori has received credit for crushing the Sendro Luminoso (Shining Path) Marxist guerilla movement, and for these voters human rights violations were of secondary importance.
The centrist candidates are Alejandro Toledo, the former President, and an economics professor. Toledo's former deputy prime minister Dr. Pedro Kuczynski, who is also an economist and a concert flautist and Luis Castaneda, former mayor of the capital cit, Lima. Toledo sought to reach an agreement in which some of the candidates would withdraw, but this has not happened.
Toledo's wife, Professor Elian Chantal Karp-Toledo, is an Israeli citizen who speaks eight languages including the dialect of Peru's Andean Indians. During her husband's first successful election campaign, she gave speeches in that language. This time around it may not be enough to get him into the run-offs.