**I do not usually post anything in English, but I guess this time the particular sources and the approach of this post sort of call for it.**
Peruvian population has probably not been so passionately divided in politics since the elections in 1990, when Alberto Fujimori and Mario Vargas Llosa were contending for Peru’s presidency. Nowadays it’s not odd to read newspaper articles or blog posts telling how friends and even family members cannot even look at each other’s faces after finding out who they’re going to vote for on April 5th. It’s not only the people close to us who have taken a stand towards a particular candidate (Ollanta Humala or Keiko Fujimori), but mass media have also taken our example as a way of doing business, and they have made the resolution –more than ever before– to produce information entirely dedicated to support either Keiko or Humala.
One new element in this presidential campaign has been the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, both as ‘official’ and underground accounts, so the competing parties can promote their political promises and some other almost-realistic proposals (as we all know, none of our presidents have ever solved all the issues they said they would in five years, nor will do the current or the future ones). Aside from trying to make these elections look like a web 2.0 campaign [yeah, right, like Barack Obama did], citizens from all around Peru (and other Peruvians abroad) have gathered in these social networks to express their hate, racism and fears against the ones who disagree with them, which is now translated into freedom of speech (you can only love democracy when you read those comments).
Nevertheless, one thing I have realized among this inevitably-biased media coverage and behaviors is the prominence of foreign media coverage and political scientists’ opinions about what’s currently happening in this country. It kind of looks like the world is just turning its eyes to our sad political situation, but I guess it’s just an Internet delusional effect.
Be that as it may, the first example of foreign media coverage can be seen in one of the Huffington Post‘s articles written by Yoani Sánchez, Peruvian Elections: The View From Cuba, where she interprets the significance of these two candidates based on a Cuban perspective.
[…] will Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the now imprisoned former president, win? Will the leftist ex-army officer Ollanta Humala be elected? The negative echoes of the government led by the center-right candidate’s father still resonate in these parts, but the rival nationalist candidate worries us more.
Looking at the article’s popularity, I guess it didn’t really seem to care lots and lots of people because it got very few comments and shares on Facebook and Twitter, considering that the HuffPost gets like over 100 comments per post. Not that it’s not worth reading it, but let’s face it, only Latinos or others who have quite some good knowledge about Cuba and Peru will fully understand it (and take the time to share it and comment on it).
Next thing that happened was this debate held between Steven Levitsky, Professor of Political Science at Harvard University and currently teaching at PUCP, and Peruvian journalist and sociologist Fernando Rospigliosi, who wanted to deal with their beef one on one after expressing their disagreements in a very well-known Peruvian newspaper (La República). The debate took place last week, in an auditorium at PUCP, and it was actually broadcasted on TV later that day.
Levitsky reasoned that there would be less harm in our (so-called) political stability if Humala were to become president due to the strong opposition he will face (both from political Congress groups and the economic establishment). He also mentioned the impossibility of trying to turn Peru into a new Venezuelan dictatorship because of the different context that these this hypothesis is based on.
On the other hand, Rospigliosi stated that Humala will most likely find its way to overcome any opposition if he wishes to do so. Furthermore, he defended Keiko’s future presidency as a corruption-free regime (very far away from her father’s example) because Montesinos was the only one to blame for the bribery of politicians and other business people (and he’s not currently part of her surroundings).
Here’s the video summarizing what happened (only in Spanish):
Last but no least, these two articles that I’m about to show you are probably the ones that prove foreign media and political scientists are very much aware of Peruvian elections, and they have a few words to share with us about it.First, we have “The Saturday Profile”, published in The New York Times, where the star is, of course, Keiko Fujimori. She has most definitely caught the attention of many foreign media given the peculiar context of her candidacy: she’s the daughter of an imprisoned man, former president Alberto Fujimori, who was once thought of representing the expected “change” of the status quo but ended up building a network of supporters based on briberies and civil rights violations against his opponents.
Here’s a piece of the article‘s closing paragraph:
In fact, her strategy of paying homage to her disgraced father may just work to deliver her the presidency of a country where deep dissatisfaction persists with the political status quo, side by side with fond memories, among some, of Mr. Fujimori’s rule. Those loyal to Ms. Fujimori’s cause sum up their visceral feelings, more for her father than his daughter, in a few words.
“I’m Fujimorista,” said Rómulo Rojas, 68, a retired shoe repairman. “So I chose Keiko a long time ago.”
While wasting my time on Twitter, @pucp_perudebate tweeted this article, published in The Financial Times, that I couldn’t help reading: Guest post: Humala is best for democracy in Peru. It actually explains most part of the arguments that Steven Levitsky has already told us about, which might suggest that he’s not alone in the idea of fearing Keiko more than Humala in a future five-year government. The authors, Max Cameron and Michael Marx McCarthy (click and scroll down here to see his bio), do consider one important group of people that NOBODY has mentioned so far, who are actually the ones that have more at stake: Peruvian elites.
Here’s a piece of what they say about them:
[…] Peru has a long way to go before it becomes a stable democracy with good governance and laws. For these ‘democratic consolidation’ strides to be taken, powerful actors will have to lose power.
Convincing elites that such a recalibration is a positive sum game will be difficult. But if Peru’s elites were to look east, across the Andes to Brazil, they would find inspiration from an elite that learned a worker’s political party headed by a worker could be good for business, good for democracy, and good for the welfare of society.
We can imagine there isn’t that much left to say about what foreign “public opinion” will think of the choice we’re about to make this Sunday. I could say one thing missing here is the “voto en blanco”, which I’m assuming can be interpreted as “spoiled ballot” since there’s no such concept of “blank ballot” in English (either in the US or UK). Only around 12% of the population, according to recent polls, will probably choose to leave their ballots blank or just write whatever on them. Their change of mind will greatly impact the results of this elections, though.
It is regrettable that Peruvian media have been so polarized during this presidential campaign. Although it was expected for this to happen, I guess it never occurred to us it would be this bad. Most of us who have the fortune to understand other languages have probably felt more relieved reading small articles published by online media rather than watching the most popular political TV shows in Peru or reading the (once) most respected newspapers. It appears to be that not only has our political scenario so much to be criticized for, but also our most well-known media people have let us down… They were supposed to counteract the defects of an obviously-biased political and economic elite, but I guess they haven’t found their way to get it right yet.