For the rest of us Latin Americans, the feud between Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori is a kind of proxy Celebrity Death Match between Alberto Fujimori and Hugo Chávez, (literally) fought by their heirs. Two of the continent’s most polarizing historical figures – the hard-right populist dictator versus the hard-left one – in a winner-takes-all!
And yet while we may find the feud enthralling, make no mistake about it. If you’re Peruvian, this choice really sucks.
But democracy is like that. We are forced to choose the lesser of two evils all the time. And this time, it is abundantly clear what all those emergent middle-class limeños need to do come June 5th:
a) go to their nearest polling station;
b) put a handkerchief to their mouths; and
c) vote for Keiko Fujimori.
Seriously, people. Ollanta Humala? We’ve been there. We are there. We know how this story ends, or rather, how it doesn’t end.
No amount of image-tailoring, no infusion of Lula-charm can cover Humala’s deep authoritarian stench. Take Hugo Chávez: take away his wit; add some creepy human rights violations charges; replace bolivarianismo with some half-baked theory called etno-cacerismo; inject a crazy-ass, Senderista-communist father; splash it with a touch of homophobic mother, and you have Ollanta Humala.
Who knows, perhaps Keiko is the best thing that’s ever happened to Lima’s wealthy. The only other choices to save Peru from Humala were PPK, a 72-year old Peruvian-American technocrat with the complexion of someone who has spent too much time playing polo, and Alejandro Toledo, a former President whose best day in office was when his approval ratings reached double digits. Neither of those two had a shot in hell against Humala and his Venezuelan petro-dollars.
But Keiko may be another story. Everyone simply assumes that because Fujimori is a right-winger and Humala is a left-winger, then whoever wins the center wins, right? In that sense, Humala and his “makeover” would have the edge.
But Fujimorismo is such a weird phenomenon, that it can get away with both being right wing *and* appealing to the poor and lower middle classes that usually would tend to vote left. In other words, Fujimori is the type of candidate that, if Humala gets over-confident and tacks to the center too strongly, can attack him from both the left and right flanks.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s awful, as her father was. But do we really think she’s going to become another dictator? Do we see her closing the Peruvian Congress with tanks like her daddy? Is there another Grupo Colina in Peru’s future?
And is it fair to judge Keiko for the sins her father made and that she’s running on?
Yes, we can. And yes, one looks at the choice, and feels like giving up on democracy altogether.
But people, you need to buck up. The choice in this race is clear.
Have your hankies ready. You’ll hate yourselves in the morning, but the alternative is even worse.
#12 … this one was longer.