While George W. Bush called it the "War on Terror" during his time in office, the "War of Terror" would have been a more accurate name. That’s because it was used to scare voters into reelecting Bush despite an accomplishment-free first term.
That strategy is now being used in Peru for the same purpose with one of the same combatants — Rudy Giuliani.
On June 5th, Peruvians will be required to go to the polls and vote for one of the top two finishers from the first round of their presidential election. That will be, in the words of Peru’s Nobel Prize-winning writer, Mario Vargas Llosa, like choosing between AIDS and cancer.
One choice is Keiko Fujimori, the 35 year-old daughter of Alberto Fujimori. He is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights violations committed while he was president in the 1990’s. She has no significant experience, other than a couple years in the Peruvian congress, and there are indications her father has been running her campaign from his cell.
The other option is Ollanta Humala, a former military officer, coup plotter and suspected human rights violator. He finished second in the election five years ago and may have lost because he associated himself with the Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez. This time he bought himself some Brazilian political advisors, a suit and a new set of talking points in order to sound less extreme.
Peruvians don’t seem convinced about Humala’s new-found moderation, however, as Fujimori is ahead in the polls. She is being helped by her father’s reputation for having defeated terrorism. While terrorism is no longer a significant problem, Peruvians are still concerned about their safety. A recent poll showed 72 percent of those who live in Lima fear being victimized by crime and 21 percent said they had been in the last year.
The challenge for Ms. Fujimori therefore was to take advantage of that insecurity without uttering the name of her jailed father. She solved that problem by hiring Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, to parade around as her “security consultant” and appear with her at campaign rallies.
What Peruvians don’t understand is how little Giuliani has to offer. It is not just, as Joe Biden once said, that Giuliani can’t say a single sentence that does not include a reference to himself and 9/11. If he were just another Big Apple blowhard competing with Donald Trump to see who could be the most ridiculous presidential pretender, that would be one thing.
It is the absurdity of his claim to be a public safety guru that should earn Giuliani a Nobel Prize for phoniness. As the book “Freakonomics” makes clear, there were several reasons for the drop in crime in New York City and none of them had anything to do with Mayor Giuliani.
To the contrary, he is remembered for having named Bernie Kerik as his Police Commissioner and it was his recommendation that led President Bush to nominate Kerik for the position of Secretary of Homeland Security. Kerik is currently serving a four-year prison term after having pled guilty to multiple felonies.
Aside from lacking judgment about his subordinates, Giuliani also had no idea what Al Qaeda was prior to 9/11 and left the city unprepared for the attack. He was seen aimlessly wandering the streets of the city that day after having to evacuate his $60 million police command center. That’s because he ignored his advisors and insisted it be placed in a building next to the Twin Towers that also collapsed when they fell. He put it there because having it close to city hall made it a more convenient place to meet his mistress.
Peruvians apparently aren’t the only ones being fooled by Giuliani. One article reporting on his role there mentioned he had been paid over $4 million dollars to provide security advice to crime-ridden Mexico City.
One can only wonder how much he is collecting to intervene in Peruvian politics and where that money came from. While he laughs his way to the bank, it will remain to be seen whether he helps scare enough voters to ensure Ms. Fujimori’s victory and, in effect, her father’s reelection.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, is a professor of international affairs at Penn State's School of International Affairs.
McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.