Geopolitics

Peru Election: Democracy At Risk, Pick Your Poison For President

Peru's two presidential candidates are far from reassuring in their democratic commitments, but in a country that fought a civil war with Maoists, the communist-style Pedro Castillo may be the bigger threat.

Pedro Castillo, head of the Perú Libre party, had 19% of votes in the first round
Redacción AméricaEconomía

-Analysis-

LIMA — On Sunday, Peru will choose its next president in the second round election runoff. Approximately two-thirds of voters have been forced to decide which of the two candidates constitutes the lesser evil, the arch-conservative Keiko Fujimori, or the schoolteacher with communist sympathies, Pedro Castillo.

Together they barely garnered 32% of votes in the first round. Pedro Castillo, head of the Perú Libre (Free Peru) party, had 19%, while Fujimori, daughter of the former, and currently jailed, president Alberto Fujimori, had barely 13%.

This paucity of votes reveals problems that have become structural in Peru: fragmentation, the gap between voters and the traditional parties, a crisis of governance and scandals that have led to four presidents over five years.

Peru's Congress, elected in that first round, contains 10 parties, and Castillo's Perú Libre has just 37 of 130 seats. For some years now, the legislature has been nothing but a grouping of parties that are formed and dissolved in line with shifting, personalized interests. That has made governing incredibly difficult.

Parliament has abused its powers to charge and oust ministers and presidents, waging a zero-sum game with the executive branch. Admittedly, the presidents barely helped as they themselves were personalities bereft of party support.

Neither candidate will strengthen democracy.

So democracy in Peru is in a bind. And that, we believe, is the most important criterion for evaluating the rival candidates. Unfortunately, neither has a clean, democratic slate.

Castillo represents a party that declares itself Marxist-Leninist and was formed around a personality who had to drop out of this race, having been convicted on corruption charges. That was Vladimir Cerrón, the former governor of the Junín province.

Castillo will probably emulate Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador leadership style, using made-to-measure referendums to serve their own interests. One recently elected Perú Libre legislator, Guillermo Bermejo, vowed that once elected, they won't leave power. Castillo did not reprimand him. On press freedoms, the party espouses "the legacy of Lenin and Fidel," or Cuba's late dictator, affirming that "Marxism does not advocate press freedom but a press committed to its people's education and cohesion."

There are also charges and suspicions — some based on a recent inquiry by the newspaper El Comercio — that some party members have ties to the political arm of the half-defunct Shining Path, the Maoist guerrillas that fought the state in past years. Castillo emphatically denies such links. His economic program remains vague, but with a strong tendency toward nationalizations. Castillo's democratic credentials are thus weak, and unnerving.

Keiko Fujimori at an election rally in May 2021 — Photo: Denis Mayhua/dpa via ZUMA Press

Fujimori's are barely better. As daughter of the dictator Alberto Fujimori whom she has vowed to pardon if elected, she has had a highly charged political career. She has been adept at destabilizing governments using her party's clout. Today, she has promised a strong government, which is of particular concern coming from her. Nor are voters appeased by her ongoing prosecution over corruption.

Neither candidate will strengthen democracy, and both have espoused the populist narrative. Their social and economic recipes, while poles apart, promise public handouts, which usually serve to concentrate power. Most Peruvians share our concerns. Indeed, the candidates have been forced to swear an oath to respect democracy and human rights.

As Peru's preeminent novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has said, it's a choice between two ills, and we agree with him when he cites Castillo as the worst of the two, with a program that poses a direct threat to Peru's democratic institutions. He has threatened to dissolve parliament, restrict press freedoms and govern in the "name of the people" through referenda.

At least Fujimori has been active inside the institutions for decades. She has done it badly of course, as a consummate disrupter. But that was her field of action, and she stayed there. She will need the support of other parties to govern, and those that give it must clearly demand that she respect the institutions.

There is no reason for optimism in either case. Whichever candidate wins, the system's fragility will continue. He may attack the institutions, she may become a right-wing demagogue, and parliament will continue to undermine the executive. What Peru needs is a political renaissance to yield a modern, competitive and responsible political system. Neither Fujimori nor Castillo represent that, but the candidate of Free Peru is the bigger threat.

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€150

An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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