Peru election: How a president, a criminal, and a Nobel winner are deciding the race
Imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, current President Alan García, and Nobel Prize in Literature recipient Mario Vargas Llosa are replicating, in some ways, their own electoral circus from 20 years ago.
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He also aimed scathing remarks at the leading presidential candidates, left-wing Ollanta Humala and the right-wing Keiko Fujimori. The latest polls show Mr. Toledo, an economist and former front-runner who served as Peru's first indigenous president from 2001 to 2006, now trailing several points behind Mr. Humala's 29 percent and Ms. Fujimori’s 24 percent.
An election between the latter two, Mr. Vargas Llosa said months ago and repeated this week on a local TV station, is “a choice between terminal cancer and AIDS." He also told CNN that the election of either candidate "would truly be a catastrophe for Peru."
Both candidates have avoided retaliating, knowing that Peruvians are proud of Vargas Llosa's Nobel prize, the first ever won by a Peruvian. Attacking him could be detrimental to their electoral health.
The remarks underscore the influence that Vargas Llosa is playing over the election Sunday, when Peruvian voters go to the polls to pick a new president from among 10 candidates. He is among three names influencing the race, maybe even decisively, who are not on the ballot yet have made the race nastier and more volatile than other recent elections.
Old grudges relived
In 1990, Mr. García was wrapping up his first term as president. While not running then for reelection, his APRA party produced a famous ad in the 1990 presidential runoff between Mr. Fujimori and Vargas Llosa, using Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” to warn voters against an economic disaster if Vargas Llosa won.
García’s government had already destroyed the economy – GDP shrank by 14 percent in 1989 and between 1985 and 1990 inflation was above 2 million percent – so the ad helped stoke fear of greater disaster. Fujimori, a political neophyte who emerged in the polls only weeks before the vote, won the race.
Two years later, Fujimori would close Congress and force García into exile. The government collapsed in the late 1990s and Fujimori fled to Japan in 2000, paving the way for García's return and presidential run in 2001, which he narrowly lost.