Perú Decides: Keiko vs. Vero

Perú could be about to see an unprecedented all-female second round. But is Keiko as Fujimorista as her name? And is Vero as chavista as her reputation?

The last few months have witnessed three big blows to the left as a regional project in Latin America. First, Mauricio Macri won the presidency in Argentina defeating Peronismo after twelve years in power. Second, the wave of Brazilian corruption scandals, involving both Dilma and Lula, discredited the PT (Workers Party). Finally, Evo lost his bid to lift term limits in Bolivia, bringing to and end his hopes of hanging on to power indefinitely.

In this context, the success of Verónika Mendoza, the candidate of the left-wing Frente Amplio (FA), might be the surprise in today’s first round of presidential voting in Perú. In a crowded field, it is likely that Mrs. Mendoza – whom everyone calls Vero – will face a run-off with the frontrunner, Keiko Fujimori. This leaves Peruvians with the difficult decision of choosing between continuing the present economic model – endorsed by Keiko and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK)—and the “profound changes” proposed by Vero – whom some argue is a neo-chavista; a roja rojita, whom according to PPK, hasn’t achieved anything in her perra vida.

What do the Peruvian elections mean for Venezuela? Will they have an impact on Chavismo’s regional prospects? Can Vero slow the decline of the left in Latin America? Could she reverse it?

First things first: Keiko Fujimori is widely expected to win the most votes in Perú today, and by quite a margin. Keiko has run forthrightly as the heir of her dad, Alberto, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence for human rights violations during his time in office in the 1990s, notably for the massacres at Barrios Altos and La Cantuta. Fujimori is credited with ending the armed conflict against terrorism and stabilizing the Peruvian economy, which have legitimized support for Keiko’s campaign–that’s where her solid 30% comes from.

Keiko says she stands for continuity in economic policy. However, she faces strong resistance due to her role as virtual first lady during her father’s dictatorship. The Fujimori era still divides Peruvians: almost 300,000 women were forcibly sterilized and corruption was rampant. In Lima, this past Tuesday, April 5th, some 30,000 people marched against Keiko’s candidacy, chanting #KeikoNoVa, on the anniversary of Fujimori’s self-coup d’etat in 1992. Her negatives are high, and although she vows no more self-coups and not to help “any” member of her family, even if she wins the first round handily, a second-round win is not a given.

Verónika Mendoza, meanwhile, is on the rise on the basis of her calls for “radical change”. In recent days, Mendoza’s leftist Frente Amplio is in a dead-heat for second place in the polls with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the 77-year-old free-marketeering former banker in charge of Todos por el Kambio, but had all the momentum.

Similar to Chávez back in 1998, some of Vero’s proposals include introducing a new constitution, the expansion of state-oil-firm Petroperu, increasing the minimum wage, and imposing more control over the central bank. Vero also supports same-sex marriage, and is keen to review Free Trade Agreements and the government’s contracts concerning natural resources. She hasn’t really explained how she will finance her proposals. It’s clear she’d have trouble getting them through what’s likely to be an opposition-led Congress.

Throughout the campaign, Vero has been attacked as a neo-chavista. That’s a contentious label: there is no proven relationship between the 35-year-old congresswoman and the deceased Venezuelan president. She’s been at pains to deny the link, reassuring voters that she would not copy the chavista model. And Mendoza has criticized both Venezuela’s opposition and government, by calling them a “weak democracy”.

Most Peruvian candidates have been cautious with regard to Venezuela. Keiko celebrated the opposition victory in legislative elections last December, and has shown solidarity for political prisoners, including Leopoldo López. But, Mendoza has referred to López as a golpista, who represents an “undemocratic opposition.” These are the type of comments that have made camarada Mendoza look like a chavista, and raise suspicions that she’ll put Peru on track for commie failure.

Should Mendoza come second on Sunday’s elections, the runoff ballot on June 5th will be between two women, ensuring the election of Peru’s first female President. Two economic models will be competing, and the dilemma of continuity versus reform will reappear in a new scenario.

The irony here is that not that long ago, it was the outgoing incumbent, Ollanta Humala, who was supposed to incarnate the chavista threat in Perú. Hugo Chávez explicitly endorsed and allegedly financed Humala’s campaign in 2006, but the guy went moderate when elected five years later. He’s renounced much of his erstwhile hard-left rhetoric and has not worked closely with Venezuela during his term.

On the contrary, Humala continued the projects started by Alejandro Toledo and Alan García, and enjoyed economic growth from heavy investment by the private sector, foreign companies, and mining companies. That made him anathema to the left. Peru continued its free trade policy and has become an important member of APEC, the Pacific Alliance, and the soon-to-be-signed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), while holding back from the new raft of Venezuela-sponsored regional bodies like ALBA, Unasur, and PetroSur.

In the context of increasing social conflict and decreasing commodity prices, Peru’s GDP growth has slowed. In a country that’s always been marked by high levels of poverty and inequality, Mendoza’s government would favor environmental laws and indigenous rights, stressing ambitious social policies.

Vero has refreshed the image of the Peruvian left and that could change the debate regarding politics in Latin America. Frente Amplio is an arroz con mango grouping left-leaning political parties, social movements, and labor unions. FA’s ideological heterogeneity could translate into ambiguous proposals. However, with a strong support for progressive social issues, Mendoza could represent a new wave for the more moderate left in Latin America.

Vero might have the opportunity to prove us wrong, and demonstrate that there can be a left without chavismo in Latin America. The image of Venezuela for Peruvians is not a positive one. It’s little wonder, with all the economic disarray in Venezuela, it’s not an especially attractive model for Peruvians at the moment. Humala saw the perils back in 2006, and that’s why he dropped his revolutionary style from 2006 and became a more moderate candidate in 2011, a shift he rode to the presidency.

Vero is aware of this. She could carry a left-leaning government without falling into corruption and the desire to perpetuate herself in power which have plagued Latin American politics over the past two decades, because the left in Latin America doesn’t always equal chavismo.

 

33 COMMENTS

  1. Poor Spanish America!
    Thanks for your well-balanced post. I am afraid if Mendoza wins, she might not follow the Chavista economic model but she would definitely support the regime at least as blindly as Rousseff.
    Fujimoro has her evils as well.
    Argh

  2. What amazed me is that in Keiko’s Closing Statement, her 90-second summary of why people should vote for her, she spends virtually all her time reassuring people she won’t do any of the horrible things the Fujimori name is now intimately tied to. What a pitch!

    • And I could imagine the other candidate spent all her statements claiming she won’t do any of the things done in Venezuela even being a hardcore chavista. How surprising.

  3. Sorry to stop you there. Been living in Peru since 2007, and for the first time, i’m really concerned by them. She has talked about a media law, also has regarded Venezuela as an authoritary state while calling fujimory a dictator while the simmils between them are striking, just that one is left other right. Even if they as a pasticho of left leaning movements, so it was mvr who went with ppt, mas, min, etc in 1998, it doesn’t make them democratic, as history has shown. Once the caudillo image was formed, we were lost. True, she has not the charisma of chavez, but is young (35 years old) and accompanied by arengadores de plaza like marco arana. Sorry, but i always have thought that peru needs change in social mathers, but i dont think she’s the solution.

  4. Let us not forget that Peruvians of certain age remember how Alan Garcia’s 85-90 government where he left the country in hyperinflation and with an ascendent Sendero Luminoso.

    Rewind 10 years to that are people that will remember the lines and scarcity and episodes of violence during General Velasco’s dictatorship.

    Peru’s affairs with the left were very traumatic.

  5. I wouldn’t even vote for the distant cousin of Fujimori’s great-auntie’s nephew twice removed, let alone one of his direct descendants who, no matter what she says about him now, had to have seen him as a great man and her hero while he was still on top. MPJ fans back home would probably get along great with that 30% of crazies.

    Meanwhile, anyone who spells their name as Verónika is not to be trusted as it is, but it’s hard to look at what she’s proposing and not get an uneasy sense of deja vu. And whatever hope she had at making me give her the benefit of doubt when it comes to chavismo sympathies went out the window when she called Leopoldo a coupster.
    If it´s true that Venezuela is seen as a boogeyman in Peru, then why the hell would she say anything remotely in line with Chavismo spiel, even when the regime is currently broke and is not the open checkbook it once was for leftie parties in other countries?

  6. “Similar to Chávez back in 1998, some of Vero’s proposals include introducing a new constitution”

    Hahaha! Is this for real?

    “She could carry a left-leaning government without falling into corruption and the desire to perpetuate herself in power which have plagued Latin American politics over the past two decades, because the left in Latin America doesn’t always equal chavismo.”

    No, no, no! She can’t! RED FLAG!!!! RED FLAG!!! Didn’t you see what you wrote above? You wrote that she wants to introduce a new constitution, right? The Venezuelans shoud be running to the hills by now screaming FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!!! SOS!!! Mayday!!!

    Man, if only the Venezuelan socialists could redirect 5%, seriously, only 5%, of the fear they have toward Trump to these people that actually say that they want to “introduce” new Constitutions, we wouldn’t fall into the socialist trap every five years!!! The sheep must learn to fear the wolves, even when they look like harmless angels!

      • They are not even hiding their intentions, besides saying that she wants a new constitution (to keep her coalition in power forever, of course), several parties of her coalition belong to the Foro de Sao Paulo, the organization created in the early ’90s by Fidel Castro and Lula, which Chavéz joined later, in 1995.

        The rest of the story is well-known.

        http://forodesaopaulo.org/partidos/

        Good luck, Peruvians! You will need.

      • Many from all sides of the ideological spectrum would agree that Lopez’s extra parliamentary strategies and actions had an aftertaste similar to that of the April 2002 coup Veronika Mendoza is by no means the first to label Leopoldo Lopez as golpista. In fact many of the MUD repudiated Lopez’s actions arguing that the willingness of the oppo to try to achieve the downfall of Maduro in the name of democracy expressed that he did not have an authentic preoccupation with strenghetning the democracy in Vzla.
        Plus, Jhader and I also discuss that veronika has also been critical of the government…

        • Then I guess anyone calling for peaceful demonstrations is a golpista. The only way to do a coup is with weapons, like the one chavez did in 92, as far as I know there was no military wing in the guarimba.

          I strongly condemmed the guarimba because it was poorly planned, it was unrealistic and it failed miserably bringing only fear, death and entrenchment of the dictatoriship.

          In any case, I don’t think LL is responsible for the violence that erupted. I blame disproportional repression by the regime and delusional individuals.

    • The current constitution was enacted under fujimorismo…That doesn’t mean that her proposed constitution is going to be as presidencialista as Chavez’s back in 1998. Plus, you need to take into account that Mendoza will have checks-and-balances with a Congress that is opposition dominated…she won’t have free rein to introduce amendments aimed at perpetuating herself in power.

      • Congress will not let pass this changes (70 projected congressmen to the fujis). This leaves with the choice of chavez to call a constitutional convention which she has said would do. Sorry but hers is not looking precisely a democratic left.

  7. I have no love for Leo “look at me, I’m a po-li-ti-cian!” López, but calling him a golpista is so exaggerated, we all know it just means that dissent will at most be sort of tolerated.

  8. Look, I don’t know Verónika Mendoza from a hole in the wall. She might be FDR or she might be Pol Pot for all I know, so I’m not saying one or the other here.

    What I *am * saying is that those of us on the center right in Latin America had better hope either her or *somebody* in the region figures out a way to reimagine the left as something other than the antithesis of democracy and good government, because political systems where one of the two sides has lost its goddamn mind are inherently unstable. It’s a game of numbers: sooner or later power shifts, and when one of the two sides is wedded to authoritarianism and misrule, you’re signing up for bouts of authoritarian mis-rule every few years, some with the kinds of consequences we’ve seen in Venezuela since 1999.

    So I hope the Peruvian left works out its shit and gets it together for very much the same reason I rue the Great Republican Freakout of 2016. Democracies aren’t stable when one of the two sides is dangerous. Isn’t that the lesson we should’ve learned by now?

    • Exacto. But have you seen her government plan? Cepal meets greenpeace meets milk. Taxation to savings and allow illegal mining. Pure contradictions. And this only will bring conflict. I woul imagine an fdr being more responsible

    • Quico, that won’t happen until Fidel Castro stops being the God of the Latin American Left, and Guerrilla romanticism and Communism it’s gospel. With the above, you will only get governments that produce hunger, poverty and misery.

    • The Center-Right in Venezuela could take a note from the very, successful playbook of the center-right in Peru and Colombia.

      Fujimori and Uribe did not win peace and stability against the Farc and Sendero Luminoso by winning elections that that were disregarded by the Supreme Court. They did it with large groups of young men with guns in their hands. Now Fujimori was also super corrupt, but he was really popular before stealing all that money for a reason.

      You could start by having MUD governors refuse to recognize the central govenrment. That would force the Chavistas to make the first move. The moment they start using the army against people then you can set the stage for the cathartic moment you need. It just needs a spark.

  9. In light of recent results positioning PPK as the candidate who will go to the run-off against Keiko Fujimori, this article is still pertinent. Until 6pm today the uncertainty that characterized this elections was still clear: First results showed the dead heat between PPK and Verónika Mendoza, with 20.9% and 20.3% respectively. Vero’s popularity was clear, winning by a landslide in some Peruvian regions, including Cuzco, Puno, Tacna, Apurímac, Ayacucho, and Huancavelica. Frente Amplio is now the third largest political party in congress, and Vero is a really strong candidate for the 2021 elections. The current results do not hide the consolidation of the left in Peru as a political force, which has been marginalized in recent years. The strengthening of Vero’s party, regardless of her defeat, represents the opportunity for a stronger democracy in Peru, with less populism, more debates, and the opportunity to implement social politics of redistribution.

    • The marginalization of the left in Peru might be a consequence of, hmm, perhaps, I dunno … being linked to the extreme terrorism of Sendero Luminoso. They have re-branded themselves with an attractive candidate that, I agree, is well positioned for the future, but something tells me it’s going to take a bit more rebranding for people to forget what the left unleashed in Peru.

  10. @sandyHands

    I disagree that what has worked in Perú (I wouldn’t say that the Farc are peaceful nor stable & I only grant you the alleged success of Perú out of my own ignorance thereof) will work in Venezuela.

    First off, non-government parties have NO arms, and they reject them as well. Their solutions follow the law, the strategy is to achieve irreversible legitimacy and standing in court and in the eyes of public opinion. I suggest you read some of the CCS Chronicle articles that discuss this, don’t miss the comments section!

    Second of all, we have a BIG insecurity problem in Venezuela, any further death will be detested, many youngsters are already armed and resultantly committing rampant crime. The police force, armies and colectivos all support the government, they repress opposition fiercely and lives have been lost because of it, tragically including many young lives. Our death counts are only increasing with the medical humanitarian crisis we are now experiencing.

    Third, if the MUD does not recognize the central government, it is paralyzed. They already tried that and it was a big failure because the government just kept going on, the oppo was completely ignored whilst any good they could have achieved in all the time lost was wasted. It wouldn’t “force” the government to do anything at all.

    Now the MUD has the National Assembly, of course their success in these first few months have been very slim but at least they now have an entry, an opportunity to participate in politics.
    Politics does NOT equal warfare, but strategizing, compromising, adapting, persuading….
    It is hard but at least it is constitutional and does not directly nor intentionally risk the lives of others, which would be the most cowardly, selfish, tragic and useless thing to do.

    Of course every solution, be it the recall or the reform or both or something else, will always have to be backed by PEACEFUL protests. These have been heavily repressed, resulting in fatalities as well but there is a world of difference between intending to create an armed conflict vs. being repressed for protesting, emphasis on intent.

    • @Fabiola

      I understand that “politics does not equal warfare”, but I don’t think politics exist in Venezuela. The government has rotted from the inside out. The institutions do not exist anymore.

      There is a feeling of suffocation that will go on and on until the people have suffocated themselves into Cubazuelans, or rise up.

  11. “With 64 percent of votes counted, Fujimori had 39.46 percent support while Kuczynski, a former World Bank economist, had 23.73 percent and leftist lawmaker Veronika Mendoza trailed with 17.12 percent.”

    Adios Mendoza! It’s great that being accused as a neo-chavista is something left leaning politicians have to deal with.

  12. BTW. Isn’t Bachelot in Chile a responsible left of center President as an example? I’m not that familiar with Chilean politics but that is my impression.

  13. Despite reading this:

    “… there is no proven relationship between the 35-year-old congresswoman and the deceased Venezuelan president. She’s been at pains to deny the link, reassuring voters that she would not copy the chavista model. And Mendoza has criticized both Venezuela’s opposition and government, by calling them a “weak democracy” …”

    But because Vero don’t like Leopoldo for some people she must be a chavista right?

    I’m so tired of this shit. Always looking at politics with our “venezuelan” glasses. I love the idea of a left movement in latinamerica that completely and openly critizices chavismo and it’s allies. Time for everyone to evolve and grow up

    • “there is no proven relationship between the 35-year-old congresswoman and the deceased Venezuelan president.”

      But there is!

      http://forodesaopaulo.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Declara%C3%A7%C3%A3o-Final-XXI-Encontro-ENG.pdf

      “We demonstrate our concern over the setback produced in the case of the government of
      Peru, which, having won the election with the leftist forces that are part of FSP and social
      movements, is at present aligned with the ideological and economic forces of neoliberalism.
      The Peruvian people are fighting against the continuance of neoliberalism and proimperialism
      with a democratic and patriotic government. We stand in solidarity with and support the peasant, native, worker, youth, Afro-descendant and women’s social movements which, along with the leftist and progressive organizations, are MARCHING TOWARDS THE GENERAL ELECTIONS OF APRIL 2016, building the bases of a proposal for democratic and patriotic government, moral regeneration and solidarity, pro-Latin American spirit and with one single program, one single front and ONE CANDIDATE ELECTED in open primaries.”

      ________________________________________________________________-

      Guess who was the Foro de Sao Paulo candidate for Peru? Yes, her!

      I didn’t write the madness above, it’s in their site! Here is the link again:

      http://forodesaopaulo.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Declara%C3%A7%C3%A3o-Final-XXI-Encontro-ENG.pdf

      Now guess who is also a member of Foro de Sao Paulo, which is the organization behind the “Patria Grande”, the lunacy that STILL wants to create in South America one single communist country? Yes, PSUV, Chávez’ party.

      “But because Vero don’t like Leopoldo for some people she must be a chavista right?”

      No, she’s Chavista because she was the Foro’s candidate!

      “I’m so tired of this shit. Always looking at politics with our “venezuelan” glasses.”

      We are all extremely tired of this shit! But complain with these mad people that are still communist in the current year and want to implement the Venezuelan model in all Latin America, now in Spain too! It’s not our fault! They are the ones looking at politics with “Venezuelan glasses”. Not us. For my part, I would love to throw the “Venezuelan model” in the trash bin of history and never bother again with it in my life. But would they do the same? No! So, here we are losing time with an obsolete ideology.

  14. It’s actually going to be Peru deciding between Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Pablo Kucinski. Se adelantaron a los hechos amigos… Will we see a post on that too? Or Kucinski not interesting enough for this site cause he’s not “a chavista” 😉

    • If you read closely, Jhader and I explictly state that “Mendoza’s leftist Frente Amplio is in a dead-heat for second place in the polls with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski”. Again and up until 6pm results showed that PPL had 20.9% and Mendoza 20.9%. The point of this post was to bring to people’s attention how the left in Peru is rising. Veronika’s party is now the thirds largest sitting in Congress. O acaso esto no es relevante?
      We never claimed that PPK was out of the race nor I claim to be some sort of Mia Astral who makes predicciones de futuro.

  15. I think many Caracas Chronicles readers are thinking about Peru’s politics as following Venezuela’s. When in fact, Venezuela has followed Peru. Look up the military dictatorship of Juan Velasco, whose 1968 coup saw the state nationalize almost all of Peru’s industry and execute one of Latin America’s most comprehensive land reforms. Velasco was a precursor to Chavez.

    After 12 years of a state-planned economy, the military decided to bow out and hold elections. However the political scene was so splintered that reforms did not come quick enough and the 1985 election of Alan Garcia brought more statist populism that led Peru to near ruin.

    Peru in 1989 may have been worse off than Venezuela is now, depending how you look at it. While hyperinflation and production shortages were similar, Peru did not have the world’s largest oil reserves and Venezuela does not have a guerrilla insurgency active in the capital.

    When explaining the popularity of Keiko to foreigners, I have them imagine giving this choice to Venezuelans today:

    Imagine you could offer Venezuelan voters a president who will dissolve congress and appropriate the judiciary. He will ultimately authorize death squads and steal hundreds of millions of dollars, and even lead a forced sterilizations campaign among the poorest communities. But he will also make Venezuela a safe place almost overnight, and he will implement market reforms which will ultimately help Venezuela become the economic star of the region in 25 years. Would they vote for that dictator?

    And that is why Alberto himself would have made the runoff if he were allowed on the ballot.

    I’d like to second Ximena’s point that Vero posed little threat given how few seats in Congress the Frente Amplio took, as well as Jhader’s point that 2021 is very much up in the air, depending on whether Mendoza has the leadership to hold her shaky party together as well as Keiko has since 2011.

    But as I said, the whole state-planned economy concept is much less attractive to Peruvians because they’ve been where Venezuela is. The only problem is teaching the lessons of history to the increasingly younger voters who weren’t there.

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