Celebrities look to sway undecided voters ahead of Peru presidential runoff

By Fernando Gimeno

Lima, May 20 (EFE).- From soccer stars like Jefferson Farfan to Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian celebrities are reaching out to undecided voters ahead of a June 6 presidential runoff that pits a pair of candidates on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

With leftist Pedro Castillo and right-wing Keiko Fujimori each rejected by much of the voting public and showing little ability or willingness to broaden their support base, these popular and influential figures, along with various civil society groups, are taking it upon themselves to tip the scales.

Peruvians face a stark choice between the reformist agenda of Castillo, a schoolteacher and union leader who is promising to rewrite the constitution and change the country’s economic course by nationalizing its natural resources, and the neoliberalism of Fujimori, who has pledged to pardon her imprisoned father, Alberto Fujimori, if elected.

A former lawmaker and first lady during much of the 1990-2000 presidency of her father, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2009 for death squad killings and kidnappings during his government’s fight against the Shining Path guerrilla group, Keiko enjoys the support of a dozen Peruvian national soccer players.

She also has assumed the mantle of patriotism by regularly sporting the national team’s jersey on the campaign trail.

With recent videos uploaded simultaneously on social media, the players were careful not to mention Keiko’s name yet their endorsement of her was clear.

“I’m voting for freedom. I’m saying no to communism,” was the message expressed in unison by Farfan and several of his teammates.

Most of those players are represented by the same agency, which, according to local sports media, strongly insisted that they make the videos.

Other celebrities calling for a vote for Fujimori have included actor Christian Meier, marathon runner Ines Melchor and dancer and choreographer Vania Masias, although the support of Vargas Llosa, recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature, perhaps carries the most weight.

Once a harsh critic of Fujimori, whom he denounced five years ago as representing “everything her father’s dictatorship stood for,” his rejection of Castillo’s leftist vision has landed him in her camp.

While Peru’s most internationally recognized celebrities are supporting the candidate of the right-wing Popular Force party, Castillo’s support in rural areas is reflected in the backing of a host of folk musicians, including Dayan Flor.

In a new Spanish-language song uploaded to Facebook with an accompanying video showing scenes of the leftist’s campaign rallies and Peru’s rural poor, she tells her countrymen “it’s time to wake up” and realize that “our wealth is being taken from the country” and that “those who have more don’t want change.”

“With Pedro, we’ll make progress. Castillo will be president,” Flor sings of a candidate who was the leading vote-getter in the first round with less than 20 percent of the ballots.

But the best-known figures backing the standard bearer of the Free Peru party are two former presidents, Uruguayan one-time leftist guerrilla Jose Mujica and Bolivian former coca union leader Evo Morales.

While Vargas Llosa is spearheading the anti-Castillo effort, civil society groups that advocate transparency and respect for human rights, including the National Coordinator for Human Rights coalition, are indirectly aiding the leftist teacher’s presidential bid by urging Peruvians not to cast a ballot for Fujimori. EFE


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