Peruvians between rock and hard place before “least bad” runoff election

By Carla Samon Ros

Lima, Apr 12 (EFE).- Either an extreme leftist or an authoritarian rightist, a Marxist teacher or a political heir accused of money laundering.

These are the two choices facing millions of Peruvian voters on Monday morning after the preliminary results of the first presidential election round were made public.

According to the latest report from the ONPE national election office, with about 83 percent of the ballots counted, union leader Pedro Castillo, with the ultra-leftist Peru Libre party, has obtained 18.3 percent of the votes, followed by former lawmaker Keiko Fujimori, with the rightist Fuerza Popular and having pocketed 13.2 percent.

Together, these two extremist candidates – who are the two top vote-getters in a crowded presidential field – have garnered a little over 31 percent of the votes so far, a showing that demonstrates the fragmentation of an electorate that now finds itself “between a rock and a hard place” with the dilemma of electing the “least bad” candidate in a runoff.

In Lima’s Los Olivos district, 24-year-old Claudia said that the developing runoff scenario is “regrettable” and linked the election results to the “disinformation” that she says has been focused on the more popular candidates.

Claudia, who on Sunday voted for neither of those two candidates, admitted to EFE that Fujimori mounted a “well-played strategy” and put the country “between a rock and a hard place.”

“I wouldn’t want Keiko to win,” she admitted, adding after a brief pause, that “if I had to choose between Keiko and Castillo, regrettably (I’d vote for) Keiko. It would have to be that way, it’s not something that I’d want.”

She said that the reason for that hypothetical decision is clear: “If Castillo wins, I wouldn’t want to be like Cuba or Venezuela, a total dictatorship, because he’s an extremist leftist.”

Another local resident, Jason Asanjo, expressed himself to EFE along the same lines, saying that the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, who governed from 1990-2000, would be “the least bad for the country.”

“Between the extremist left and Keiko, who is a little on the right, I feel that the least bad would be Keiko because of the fact that if we go to the left we’ll have the result that the Venezuelans who are emigrating to Lima have, since it would be an identical disaster-government like what’s happening there,” he said.

Asanjo, 24, said that he’s leaning toward the Fuerza Popular leader, in large part because of the alleged connections linking Castillo to the Movement for Amnesty and Basic Rights (Movadef), the political arm of the Shining Path terrorist group, although the candidate has denied that claim.

According to Asanjo, however, a government headed by Peru Libre would return the country to “these things that our parents already experienced during the 1990s,” during the armed internal conflict.

The dilemma disappears for people who have clear sympathies for one of the two candidates, such as is the case with Mercedes Horna, a middle-aged Lima resident and a faithful supporter of Fuerza Popular.

“I want Keiki Fujimori to win. She needs to be given a chance. She’s not to blame for the problems her father has had,” Horna told EFE.

On the other extreme are people like Dante Cabrera, who is convinced that Castillo “is the solution for Peru” in finding a way out of the corruption and the “complete looting by those in power” plaguing the country.

“I’d prefer for Castillo to win rather than Keiko Fujimori because (she) is the legacy of her father and corruption is encysted in her,” said Cabrera, who referred to prosecutors’ demand for 30 years behind bars in the money laundering and criminal conspiracy trial launched against her in 2018 after irregular contributions to her prior election campaigns by companies like Brazil’s construction giant Odebrecht.

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