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Peru

Peru: Humala's Presidential Victory Triggers Sharp (But Brief) Stock Market Slide

Former army officer Ollanta Humala squeezed past Keiko Fujimori in last Sunday’s presidential runoff in Peru. His biggest challenge may be yet to come: aiding the country’s rural poor while at the same time placating jittery investors.

Just over 51% of Peruvian voters chose Ollanta Humala over Keiko Fujimori
Just over 51% of Peruvian voters chose Ollanta Humala over Keiko Fujimori

EYES INSIDE -- LATIN AMERICA

Just hours after Nationalist Party leader Ollanta Humala won the Peruvian presidential election by a slight margin in a hotly contested June 5 runoff, concerns were raised over what economic and social directions Peru will be taking over the next five years.

On Monday, the day after Humala defeated conservative congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, the Peruvian stock market plummeted 12.5% – a record drop in recent years – over worries that the 48-year-old former army officer may impose new tax rules for the nation's mining industry. Mining accounts for more than half of the country's exports and has been fueling the surging economy over the past seven years.

On Tuesday, stocks bounced back after Humala called for calm. The left leaning president-elect has pledged to distribute the country's wealth evenly among Peru's poorer residents. Be he also promises to bring in the best technocrats and economists to help him keep the country's finances flourishing.

Peru has experienced rapid growth over the past 10 years, fueled mainly by investments in the mining sector. According to Deutsche Bank, about 16% of the world's silver is mined in Peru, which also accounts for 12% of global zinc production, 9% of all gold mining and 7% of the world's copper production. A huge cash cow, mining has caused deep social rifts among residents in rural areas, who accuse international firms of reaping huge profits and giving them little in return.

Opponents of the president-elect worry that Humala, once a strong ally of fiery Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, could govern with vengeance and take aim at his critics, including members of the press, who throughout the campaign accused him of having a hidden agenda, Peru's El Comercio reports.

The 36-year-old Fujimori, who lost the runoff by less than 500,000 votes, said it was best that the "violence and attacks that occurred during the race" remain in the past. Humala, who edged out Fujimori by a margin of 51.4% to 48.5%, said in an interview with CNN that he won't seek any type of revenge against the press.

Humala will begin a South American tour Thursday with stops in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. His inauguration is scheduled for July 28.

Martin Delfín
Worldcrunch

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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