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Lessons from Peru’s Presidential Election

Arrested development.

1:30 PM, Apr 8, 2011 • By VANESSA NEUMANN
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Then there is the (not entirely unfounded) suspicion that this economic boom has benefitted a familiar few more than the rest. That alone has been known to topple more than one government – and it’s lent support from Peruvians to Humala. Indeed a recent study showed that while the perception of distributive justice has improved during García’s presidency from 8 percent in 2007 to 14 percent in 2010, it is still well below the South American average of 21 percent – though it’s still above the Dominican Republic, Chile and Argentina, the region’s most unequal countries.

Keiko Fujimori (running for the Fuerza 2011 party) has little more than name recognition going for her (she is Alberto’s daughter) but that may well be enough for some. Indeed, many of Peru’s poorer and indigenous populations thought Fujimori got a raw deal when the criminal sentences started pouring out in 2007. After all, they credit him with bringing Peru back from the brink of economic and political collapse under the constant terrorist attacks by the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru that killed hundreds of thousands. For them, their lives improved more visibly and dramatically under Fujimori than under García’s GDP growth, infrastructure improvements, and free trade deals with South Korea and Mexico.

To the great chagrin of Peru, the Andean region and Peru’s international partners, the latest Ipsos Apoyo poll gives Ollanta Humala 28 percent of the vote and Keiko Fujimori 21 percent of the vote – meaning that the Peruvian electorate is likely to face this grim choice in the run-off election on June 5.

The lesson, in short, from Peru’s election: In Latin America, the right governance and social welfare programs trump economic success.

Vanessa Neumann is editor-at-large of Diplomat magazine and a commentator on Latin American politics for Caracol radio. 

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