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June 2011, Week 1

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Fri, 3 Jun 2011 20:41:03 -0400
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Why Washington Is Worried About Peru

    If its preferred candidate Keiko Fujimori loses to
    Ollanta Humala, the US will be isolated against South
    America's left governments

by Mark Weisbrot

The Guardian (UK) 
June 2, 2011

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jun/02/peru-venezuela

In just a few days, on Sunday 5 June, an election will take
place that will have a significant influence on the western
hemisphere. At the moment, it is too close to call. Most of
official Washington has been relatively quiet, but there is
no doubt that the Obama administration has a big stake in
the outcome of this poll.

The election is in Peru, where left populist and former
military officer Ollanta Humala is facing off against Keiko
Fujimori, the daughter of Peru's former authoritarian ruler
Alberto Fujimori, who was president from 1990-2000. Alberto
Fujimori is in jail, serving a 25-year sentence for multiple
political murders, kidnapping and corruption. Keiko has made
it clear that she represents him and his administration, and
has been surrounded by his associates and former officials
of his government.

Fujimori was found to have had "individual criminal
responsibility" for the murders and kidnappings. But his
government was responsible for many more widespread murders
and human rights abuses, including the forced sterilisation
of tens of thousands of women, mostly indigenous.

Between the two candidates, whom do you think Washington
would prefer?

If you guessed Keiko Fujimori, you guessed right. I spoke
Monday night with Gustavo Gorriti in Lima, an award-winning
Peruvian investigative journalist who was one of the people
that Alberto Fujimori was convicted of kidnapping. "The US
embassy strongly opposes Humala's candidacy," he said.
Harvard professor of government Steven Levitsky, who has
written extensively on Peru and is currently visiting
professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
(PUCP), came to the same conclusion: "It's clear that the US
embassy here sees Keiko as the least bad option," he told me
from Lima on Tuesday.

Humala's opponents argue that Peru's democracy would be
imperilled if he were elected, pointing to a military revolt
that he led against Fujimori's authoritarian government. (He
was later pardoned by the Peruvian Congress.) But his record
is hardly comparable to the actual, proven crimes of Alberto
Fujimori.

Humala is also accused of being an ally of Venezuela's
President Hugo Chávez. He has distanced himself from Chávez,
unlike in his 2006 campaign for the presidency. But all of
this is just a rightwing media stunt. Chávez has been
demonised throughout the hemispheric media, and so rightwing
media monopolies have used him as a bogeyman in numerous
elections for years, with varying degrees of success. Of
course, Venezuela is also irrelevant to the Peruvian
election because almost all governments in South America are
"allies of Chávez". This is especially true of Brazil,
Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Uruguay, for example, all of
whom have very close and collaborative relations with
Venezuela.

As in many other elections in Latin America, rightwing
domination of the media is key to successful scare tactics.
"The majority of TV stations and newspapers have been
actively working for Fujimori in this election," said
Levitsky.

The thought of another Fujimori government is so frightening
that a number of prominent conservative Peruvian politicians
have decided to endorse Humala. Among these is the Nobel
prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who hates the
Latin American left as much as anyone. Humala has also been
endorsed by Alejandro Toledo, the former Peruvian president
and contender in the first round of this election.

So why would Washington want Fujimori? The answer is quite
simple: it's about Washington's waning influence and power
in its former "backyard" of Latin America. In South America,
there are now left-of-centre governments in Argentina,
Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay.
These governments have a common position on most hemispheric
issues (and sometimes, other international issues, such as
the Middle East), and it often differs from that of
Washington.

For example, when the Honduran military overthrew the
country's elected left-of-centre president, Manuel Zelaya,
in 2009, and the Obama administration sought to legitimise
the coup government through elections that other governments
would not recognise, it was Washington's few rightwing
allies that first broke ranks with the rest of South
America.

Prior to last August, the only governments in South America
that Washington could count as allies were Chile, Peru and
Colombia. But Colombia under President Manuel Santos is no
longer a reliable ally, and currently has very good co-
operative relations with Venezuela. If Humala wins, there is
little doubt that he will join the rest of South America on
most issues of concern to Washington. The same cannot be
said of Keiko Fujimori.

And that is why Washington is worried about this election.

___________________________________________

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