Presidential elections in Peru will take place on June 6, 2021. Two candidates representing extreme ideological positions are on the ballot. Politically, there is something bizarre going on and this may be occuring because the public is disgusted by years of ineffective governance. Four presidents elected since 2000, after President Alberto Fujimori stepped down, including Fujimori himself, have gone to prison. All accused of corruption. Three other presidents elected since 2016 were tossed out of office after loosing support of the Congress.
How did Peru get there? It all goes back to the time when the guerilla movement known as the Shining Path gained notoriety, and Alberto Fujimori won the 1990 elections by galvanizing voters around the notion that he would be able to defeat the terrorists. Fujimori, who remained in power for ten years, crushed the rebels by using brutal repression, but shut down the country’s democratic institutions in the process. (You can find more information about this time in my novel “In the Belly of the Horse”.)
Today we still have echoes of that conflict, as the June 6th presidential election will pit the ideological heir to the Shining Path insurgency, candidate Pedro Castillo, against Fujimori’s daughter. Keiko Fujimori is a former conservative Congresswoman who represents those who supported her father.
As Mario Vargas Llosa (Peruvian Nobel prize winner in literature) and others have said, “neither candidate is fit to be president”. Pedro Castillo on the left, is a former elementary school teacher and union leader who declares himself a Marxist, while Keiko Fujimori on the right, promises a “hard democracy to make the necessary choices to rescue the country.”
And the country needs much rescuing… Before Covid-19 there was a time when the nation was thriving; lifting people from poverty. The pandemic has hit hard and just this week, the Shining Path insurgents raised their heads again. In an area deep in the Amazon jungle, where 75% of the country’s cocaine is produced, the Shining Path allied with drug traffickers murdered 16 people. Pamphlets were found at the scene scaring people from the polls.
The country faces a challenge as no candidate or party has the popular support of the people needed to govern effectively. It will be interesting to follow the situation.
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