Peru's political divide

By Dan Collyns

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Peruvians vote Sunday, June 5th, in one of the most contentious elections in decades. Two populist candidates from opposite ends of the political spectrum have made it through to the second round run-off.

One is Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of an imprisoned former president, Alberto Fujimori. The other is former army officer Ollanta Humala, a one-time protégé of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. The election comes as Peru's economy is booming, but many Peruvians feel left out of the boom.

Cesar Cruz, a Lima taxi driver, said Peruvians have the choice of "voting for their wallet or their conscience."

He said a vote for your wallet means voting for Keiko Fujimori because she'll keep the doors open to foreign investors. Voting for your conscience, he said, means Ollanta Humala, though Humala scares people who think he's too close to Hugo Chavez.

Cruz himself said he plans to vote for Humala. He said he lived through the abuses and corruption of the Alberto Fujimori years of the 1990s, and he could never vote for daughter.

Supporters of Keiko Fujimori have other memories of the Albert Fujimori era. They remember the soup kitchens and low-cost housing programs of her father's presidency. The right-wing Keiko Fujimori commands support among many of Peru's poor. She's also popular for her zero-tolerance stance on crime. Fujimori's been campaigning with an American with crime-fighting credentials, Rudy Giuliani.

"The main problem for everybody is security," Fujimori said. "To fight delinquency, we have brought Mayor Giuliani in order to strengthen our proposal."

But Fujimori has her detractors. Alvaro Vargas Llosa, the son of the Nobel Laureate Maria Vargas Llosa, said Fujimori would be a return to the bad old days of her father. Alberto Fujimori is currently serving a 25 year sentence, after being linked to death squads in the 1990s

"Her conduct in these last 10 years, her conduct during the dictatorship, the people that surround her and the stance that she and those people have taken on every single issue having to do with to what happened in the 1990s," Vargas Llosa said, "all of that points to Alberto Fujimori making the big decisions and governing eventually if they win, through her."

Still, many Peruvians are worried about Fujimori's rival, Ollanta Humala. Many in the middle-class are suspicious of Humala's apparent conversion to a free-market candidate. They still see him as a left-wing extremist with ties to Chavez.

Humala has been trying to dispel that image on the campaign trail.

"If they looked at what we're proposing, they'd realize that we are not a threat. We want to consolidate the Peruvian economy but we want economic growth that's inclusive and that solves the grave social problems we have in this country of poverty, extreme poverty and inequality," he said.

In the end, though, Peruvians like Pilar, a college student who studies business administration and law, say either candidate would have a hard time solving the country's entrenched problems.

"I really believe that Peru needs a change," Pilar said. "It's obvious that continuing down the same track is not working. There's growth and there's supposed to be trickle-down, but where is it trickling down to? It's not reaching the places that really need it."