Commentary: How Peru's political problems impact U.S.

The Miami HeraldApril 13, 2011 

Peru had its presidential election on Sunday, and the outcome could not have been worse. Few Americans will care about that, but they should. The result is not just another example of Latin America’s self-destructive tendencies. It may be America’s future.

Here is what happened and why it matters. There were 10 candidates for president, but only half of them had any real chance. There were three centrists with the credentials to govern well — Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, an economist with degrees from Oxford and Princeton; former president Alejandro Toledo, who has a Ph.D. from Stanford; and Luis Castañeda Lossio, the former mayor of Lima. They divided the political center, however, and that allowed two extremists to finish first and second. Those two will proceed to a runoff election in June.

On the far left and coming in first was Ollanta Humala, a former army officer and coup plotter. Humala was first in the last presidential election five years ago, but lost the runoff to the current president, Alan Garcia, by a few percentage points. This time Humala bought himself a suit and a new set of talking points and has tried to sound more reasonable, while still maintaining his populist credentials.

Predicting how President Humala might govern is impossible, given his lack of relevant experience or anything that one might call a political philosophy. If his family is any indication, it won’t be pretty. His father is a communist who thinks all the imprisoned terrorists in Peru should be freed, his mother thinks homosexuals should be shot and his brother was convicted of kidnapping and murder.

Humala went to great lengths this time to distance himself from Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez, who is unpopular in Peru. But once in office, Humala will no doubt copy Chávez’s style of pitting the poor against the rich in order to accumulate more power.

Facing off against him will be Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, the former president who is now in prison for the crimes committed during his regime. It would be like Tricia Nixon running for president at age 35, if her father had received the jail time he deserved, with a program that consisted of nothing more than pardoning him.

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