Play dirty to become president in popular Peruvian card game

By Monica Martinez

Lima, May 7 (EFE).- Buying off the media, being friendly with a corrupt judge and hiding ill-begotten money in a tax haven can help you rapidly become Peru’s “president,” at least in a popular card game whose appeal stems from citizens’ deep distrust of the Andean nation’s politicians.

“It’s now easier to win by being dishonest. It’s more true to life,” creator Javier Zapata told Efe, referring to the latest version of “Presidente.”

Although it dates back two decades, the game has recently experienced a revival thanks to some updates inspired by the country’s turbulent political scene and this year’s presidential election.

While accusing a rival of having illegitimate children and controlling the media are some of the game’s classic dirty-tricks cards, new ones have been added recently pertaining to the coronavirus era and the removal of a sitting president on questionable grounds.

“You used to be punished for the most dishonest plays, but now it’s more realistic because a dishonest play makes you move up much more quickly than being honest,” Zapata said.

A game for between two and five players that takes no more than 20 minutes to play, the objective is to accumulate the most votes by “obtaining money and power.” Successful players take cheap shots on their rivals while also shielding themselves from others’ attacks, the creator said.

In the latest version of the game, for example, candidates accrue 7 percent of the vote, the highest amount possible in a single play, by taking control of the television networks, he said.

Another card reads, “I inaugurate half-finished projects,” a reflection of voters’ low expectations.

An engineer for 10 years at an innovation and entrepreneurship center, he said today’s reality may even be more grim. “We’re now between a rock and a hard place. We’re beyond ‘go ahead and steal, but carry out public works projects'” and have reached the point of ‘don’t take too much away from us.”

He was alluding to the upcoming June 6 runoff presidential election pitting a right-wing former first lady, Keiko Fujimori, who faces serious corruption charges; and leftist Pedro Castillo, some of whose proposals have been deemed potentially unconstitutional by his critics.

New versions of the game, created in late 2000 when Keiko’s father, Alberto Fujimori, stepped down from the presidency amid a massive corruption scandal, were developed in subsequent election cycles to introduce new or modified cards.

For example, a card that initially read, “an inexplicable bank account in Switzerland” evolved over the years to “an inexplicable bank account in Costa Rica,” a reference to a money-laundering probe targeting former President Alejandro Toledo.

The card was later modified again to the generic “an inexplicable bank account in a tax haven” so it is applicable in all instances, Zapata said.

New cards have been added over the past year, one that refers to the impeachment and removal from office last November of then-President Martin Vizcarra, a popular centrist and anti-corruption crusader, over graft allegations that he denied. His ouster, seen by many Peruvians as a legislative coup, triggered a large wave of nationwide protests.

The latest version also features a fearsome Covid-19 quarantine card that causes “everyone to lose their money,” including the person who plays it, Zapata said. EFE


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