PERU: Chávez Chum Leading Ahead Of April 10 Election

Ten candidates, including the 35-year-old daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, square off in this Sunday's election, which is likely to result in a runoff.

Keiko Fujimori, a leading contender for the Peruvian presidency
Keiko Fujimori, a leading contender for the Peruvian presidency


A former army officer with leftist leanings and on-again-off-again ties to Venezuela's Hugo Chávez is favored to finish first in Sunday's presidential election in Peru. But with a plethora of candidates, no one is expected to arrive at the 50 percent required to avoid a runoff, which leaves much weeding through before knowing who will succeed outgoing President Alan Garcia, who's reached the end of his term limit.

Recent polls put Ollanta Humala, the runner up in the last election, roughly four percentage points ahead of his closest rivals: former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a one-time finance minister.

The other major contenders in the April 10 contest are Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), and Luis Castañeda, a conservative ex-mayor of Lima. Five lesser-known candidates are also on the ballot. A runoff is expected as no one is projected to win Sunday's race with a clear 50% majority. A head-to-head between the top two finishers would take place June 5.

Outgoing President Alan García has called on his successor not to change any of the policies that have helped Peru become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. In 2009, the country's growth rate was listed at 9.8%.

While soaring crime, poverty and the economy have dominated the campaign, Humala's proposed platform, which calls for more state control of industry, and Chávez's alleged influence have also come into focus. Humala, an open ally of the Venezuelan leader during the 2006 campaign, has kept Chávez at arm's length this time around.

"For strategic reasons, I think he is going to say that Chávez is not supporting him," said the moderate Toledo. He asked Chávez on Twitter to stay out of the country's internal affairs.

During an official visit to Uruguay last week, Chávez said the allegations are aimed at destroying Humala's Nationalist Party. "They want to hurt him," the controversial Venezuelan leader said.

Humala has refused comment on his alleged Chávez ties, calling such speculation a job for political analysts. "I only comment on facts," he said, adding that after April 10 he would be willing to discuss the matter.

Chávez is not the only question mark looming over Humala's candidacy. During an April 3 debate between the five main candidates, the front-runner sidestepped queries about whether he plans to reform the Constitution. He also refused to answer questions about his possible role in a 2005 rebellion known as the "Andayualazo," which was led by his brother Antauro and resulted in the killings of four police officers.

A video of Antauro, in which he acknowledges that Humala ordered the rebellion, has surfaced on the Internet. Antauro, a former army major, is serving a 25-year-sentence for leading the uprising.

It is unclear whether Humala, if elected president, would move to pardon his imprisoned brother. Questions over presidential pardons have also come up for 35-year-old Keiko Fujimori, whose father is serving a more than 25-year-sentence for corruption and human rights abuses stemming from a pair of massacres that occurred during his presidency.

There is strong support for the release of former President Fujimori, who still enjoys enormous popularity among Peruvians. Julio Rosas Huaranga, an evangelical minister who is running on Kieko Fujimori's Fuerza 2011 slate for a seat in Congress, told Peru's El Comercio that a pardon of her father should be the first thing she should do if elected.

The conservative Lima-daily La Razón reported that Keiko Fujimori was the clear winner of Sunday night's debate.

Martin Delfín

Photo - Congreso de la Republica de Peru

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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