Tag Archives: kuczynski

As Lasso rises, Ecuador could be next leftist LatAm domino to fall

Former vice president Lenín Moreno hopes to keep the Latin American left’s hopes alive with a victory in Ecuador on Sunday. (Facebook)

No one has more riding on the outcome of the April 2 presidential runoff in Ecuador than Julian Assange. 

The Wikileaks founder has been shacked up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. Officially, Assange is evading an extradition to Sweden to stand trial for sexual assault charges. Ecuador’s outgoing president Rafael Correa granted Assange asylum five years ago, a populist move responding to the eccentric Australian native’s fears that he might ultimately be subjected to the grips of US extradition.

If one-time frontrunner Lenín Moreno, Correa’s former vice president, and the heir to Correa’s self-proclaimed ’21st century socialist’ Alianza PAIS movement, wins Sunday’s election, Assange can rest assured that Ecuador’s government will not revisit that arrangement anytime soon.

But if center-right insurgent Guillermo Lasso has his way, he will evict Assange from from Ecuador’s protections within 30 days of taking office.

Though Assange’s fate is drawing global headlines, Ecuador’s election represents a fascinating showdown between two very different policy views for the country’s future outcome — and a referendum on Correa’s decade-long rule. The result will hold deep consequences for the country, its rule of law, its electorate and Latin America generally.  A country of 16 million that, since 2000, has used the US dollar as its currency, Ecuador is today the eighth-largest economy in Latin America.

It’s the latest battleground in a series of contests in the mid-2010s that have generally brought setbacks to the populist left. A Lasso victory on Sunday could add pressure to Venezuela’s increasingly autocratic government, and boost conservative opposition hopes in Chile’s elections later this year and in Bolivia’s in 2019.

Guillermo Lasso narrowly forced his opponent into a runoff in what is now a clear referendum on Rafael Correa’s decade-long presidency. (Facebook)

Former bankers do not typically make great politicians, but Lasso narrowly forced a runoff by holding former vice president Lenín Moreno to just below 40% in first round on February 19.

That gives Lasso a head-on opportunity to face Moreno without dispersing multiple opposition forces within Ecuador. Third-placed candidate Cynthia Viteri, a former legislator and a social conservative, has endorsed Lasso. Fourth-placed Paco Moncayo, a leftist who served as Quito mayor from 2000 to 2009, has refused to endorse either of the two finalists — a snub to Correa and Moreno.

Viteri’s support and Moncayo’s ambivalence have both boosted Lasso’s runoff chances, though it may still not be enough — Lasso finished more than 11% behind Moreno in the first round. Indeed, most polls give Moreno a slight edge over Lasso, a longtime president of the Bank of Guayaquil whose political experience is negligible — he served briefly as ‘superminister for finance’ in 1999 during the scandal-plagued administration of Jamil Mahuad, sentenced to a 12-year prison sentence in 2014 for embezzlement. In 2012, Lasso formed a new opposition party, Creando Oportunidades (CREO, Creating Opportunities) to back his presidential ambitions in 2013. Lasso finished a humiliating second place (with just 22.7% of the vote) to Correa, who won a first-round victory with 57.2% support. But that race put Lasso in position to consolidate support as the chief opposition candidate this year.  Continue reading As Lasso rises, Ecuador could be next leftist LatAm domino to fall

PPK on track to win Peruvian presidency by a narrow margin

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski appears headed to a narrow victory in Peru's presidential race. (Facebook)
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski appears headed to a narrow victory in Peru’s presidential race. (Facebook)

For the second time in as many elections, it’s looking like Keiko Fujimori will narrowly lose a runoff to become Peru’s president.Peru Flag Icon

With nearly 93% of the results counted, Fujimori was trailing behind economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the 77-year-old former banker and International Monetary Fund official who served briefly as prime minister in the 2000s. Kuczynski, widely known across Peru by his initials, ‘PPK,’ was winning 50.32% of the vote to just 49.68% for Fujimori.

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RELATED: PPK has chance to unite anti-Fujimori voters in June runoff

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Though we do not know the exact results, and we might not know them until later today or this week, all signs point to a narrow victory for PPK, who placed third in the 2011 presidential election (behind Fujimori) and who trailed Fujimori by double digits in the initial April vote. Indeed, for years, the 2016 election seemed like it was Fujimori’s to lose. Kuczynski, an internationalist who seemed more at home in Washington, D.C. than in the Andean highlands, is not exactly a natural on the campaign trail. He took an incomprehensible break from the runoff campaign to visit New York (where he attended his daughter’s graducation, but where he also gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, feeding the hype that he’s not ‘authentically’ Peruvian).

I hope that Suffragio will feature a guest post on the Peruvian election later this week. But in the meanwhile, here are some quick thoughts on what a PPK victory would mean for Peru.  Continue reading PPK on track to win Peruvian presidency by a narrow margin

PPK has chance to unite anti-Fujimori voters in June runoff

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who narrowly fell short of the 2011 presidential runoff, could win Peru's presidency in July. (Facebook)
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who narrowly fell short of the 2011 presidential runoff, could win Peru’s presidency in July. (Facebook)

For Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the hardest part of Peru’s two-stage presidential election might be making it into June’s runoff. Peru Flag Icon

It was no surprise that Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, a controversial figure now serving a prison sentence for human rights abuses during his time in office from 1990 to 2000, would win the first round of the election on Sunday.

Quick counts and initial results show that Fujimori, as predicted, easily won the first round with around 39.5% of the vote.

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RELATED: Fujimori’s daughter leads as
Peru faces June presidential runoff

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Kuczynski, nearly universally known as ‘PPK’ in Peru, was winning around 23.7% of the vote, enough to edge out the third-placed candidate, left-wing Verónika Mendoza, who was winning around 17.1% of the vote.

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The results all but assure that Kuczynski will emerge as Fujimori’s challenger in the June 5 runoff — a choice that many Peruvians wanted in the 2011 election.

Five years ago, it was leftist Ollanta Humala who won the first round, while Fujimori placed second, eliminating Kuczynski from the runoff in what many voters considered a worst-case scenario. On one hand, they could support a former army officer with a spotty military record and with ties to the radical left; on the other hand, the daughter of an anti-democratic authoritarian.

PPK’s apparent victory over Mendoza this year means that the 2016 runoff will be far less ideological than the 2011 runoff, instead featuring two candidates who espouse the kind of orthodox economic views that have dominated Peruvian governance since since the 1990s (even, perhaps surprisingly, during the Humala administration).

One of the central policies of Keiko Fujimori’s campaign has been a promise to use some of Peru’s $8 billion ‘rainy-day’ fund to stimulate spending on infrastructure and other projects to develop rural Peru. That means she will, on economic matters at least, be running to the left of PPK, who has called for budget discipline and pro-business policies that include a modest sales tax cut. Both candidates have signaled that they want to curb Peru’s growing coca production, and both candidates want to work to give local communities a greater share of profits from gold and copper mining that have boosted the Peruvian economy.

Polls show that the runoff will be competitive, despite Fujimori’s wide first-round victory. An average of four polls conducted in April before Sunday’s first-round voting gave Fujimori a statistically insignificant lead of 41.6% to 39.8%. Continue reading PPK has chance to unite anti-Fujimori voters in June runoff

Fujimori’s daughter leads as Peru faces June presidential runoff

Keiko Fujimori is set to win with ease the first round of Peru's presidential election on Sunday. (Facebook)
Keiko Fujimori is set to win with ease the first round of Peru’s presidential election on Sunday. (Facebook)

In 2011, Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa famously compared the choice his country’s electorate faced as a choice between AIDS and cancer.Peru Flag Icon

Five years later, one of those choices from that election, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Peru’s former authoritarian president (now serving in prison for corruption), now leads the country’s April 10 vote by double digits. Ollanta Humala, who defeated Fujimori five years ago, once feared as a militarist left-wing firebrand and a chavismo sympathizer, is leaving office widely derived and haunted by corruption, even after hewing to a middle-road path.

Though Humala will step down with as poor of an approval rating as his most recent predecessors, the biggest surprise of his presidency is that he ultimately chose to follow a center-right, business-friendly path in line with the past two decades of Peruvian governance. Humala will leave office, to the dismay of his one-time left-wing supporters, as a defender of neoliberal economics who stood, often with the force of Peru’s military, against striking workers and miners across the country. Though Humala himself is a former army officer, he failed to contain the growth of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), a Maoist guerrilla operation that’s made modest gains in southern Peru over Humala’s administration, despite its near eradication a generation ago.

As of February, Humala has also been implicated in Brazil’s widening corruption inquiry, amid allegations from Brazilian police that Humala may have taken bribes from Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction firm. His wife, Nadine Heredia, who once harbored ambitions of succeeding Humala herself, is also under investigation for corruption.

It’s no wonder that, once again, in an election year, Peruvians are looking for a change.

A referendum on a father’s complex legacy

Fujimori, for her part, has positioned herself well since the last election. The frontrunner to win Sunday’s presidential, she is nevertheless unlikely to secure the presidency outright. More likely, Fujimori will face the second-placed candidate in a June 5 runoff.

Still, the prospect of an easy double-digit win for Fujimori spawned a wave of popular protest across the country this week, a sign of the tumult that might follow in the two-month runoff campaign as anti-Fujimori forces coalesce behind a single challenger. Nearly 30,000 flooded the streets of Lima, Peru’s capital, earlier this week in opposition to her candidacy. Protesters worry that a Fujimori victory (either now or in June) will restore the same authoritarianism and corruption that marked the decade of rule under her father, Alberto Fujimori, between 1990 and 2000.

Despite Keiko’s best efforts, the June runoff is likely to become a referendum on her father’s legacy.
Continue reading Fujimori’s daughter leads as Peru faces June presidential runoff

Humala’s popularity sinks as Peru gets 7th PM in four years

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It’s become a political law of gravity in Peru in the past 15 years that the popularity of its elected presidents drops as each five-year term ends.Peru Flag Icon

That’s irrelevant for the current president, Ollanta Humala, since Peruvian presidents aren’t eligible for reelection to two consecutive terms. But a week after opposition parties in Peru’s Congreso de la República (Congress of the Republic) forced Humala’s prime minister Ana Jara to step down amid a internal spying scandal, Humala was obligated to appoint the seventh prime minister of his administration.

Although the Peruvian president functions both as head of state and head of government, the prime minister heads the executive cabinet, and the appointment of Pedro Cateriano launched yet another reshuffle in the Humala administration as voters seem to be souring on Humala in the fourth of his five-year term. The Congress voted on March 30 to censure Jara in relation to allegations that Peru’s intelligence agency, the Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia (DINI), was spying on opposition politicians, journalists and businessmen.

Despite fears during the 2011 election that Humala, a leftist and former army officer, would lead Peru in a populist direction in the manner of socialist governments in Ecuador, Cuba and Venezuela, Humala instead pursued the same liberal, pro-market economic policies of all Peruvian administrations since the 1990s. Nevertheless, as  commodities prices drop, GDP growth projections are falling in a country where gold, zinc and copper mining undergirded some of the fastest economic growth in the world throughout the 2000s. It’s the same problem that Chile, Peru’s Pacific neighbor to the south and also a prolific copper exporter, is facing. The difference is that GDP per capita is just over twice as high in Chile as in Peru, a country of just over 31 million that is still struggling to rise to the same level of development as Chile, Mexico and other leaders in Latin America. Nevertheless, Humala failed earlier this year to implement even a watered-down labor market reform designed to make it easier for young graduates to find work.

With growth forecasts slowing, however, it’s not enough that Humala has pursued continuity in economic policymaking. His failure to reform Peru’s economy, combined with an expected slowdown (if not an outright recession), will make it difficult for Humala’s allies to maintain power in 2016. In Peru, a country without firmly settled political parties, however, it’s a question whether Humala is still a man of the political left. Though liberal reformers believe Humala’s accomplishments are tepid, he’s now closer to Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa than the traditional left. For example, Humala has struggled throughout his administration to respond to the economic, labor rights and environmental complaints of Peru’s mining workers.

Gana Perú (Peru Wins), the leftist electoral coalition that formed to support Humala’s candidacy in 2011, claims that it will still field a candidate in the upcoming 2016 vote. The party remains the largest bloc in the unicameral Congress, having won 47 out of 130 seats at the last election. That number, however, has fallen due to defections over the years. Humala’s wife, Nadine Heredia, was forced to disavow any presidential ambitions in the middle of her husband’s term, and any majestic hopes evaporated with fresh allegations in February of corruption and money laundering, a familiar refrain in a country where former president Alejandro Toledo is also under a cloud of suspicion for corruption and may yet face criminal charges. Humala’s popular former interior minister, Daniel Urresti, was forced to resign in February after his indictment for the murder of Hugo Bustios in 1988 when Urresti was involved in the fight against Senedero Luminoso (Shining Path).

That means that the leaders in the 2016 field, for now, are the runners-up to Humala from the 2011 field. Polls today show that Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori, leads the field, followed in second place by Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a liberal who served as a former prime minister and economy minister. Fujimori’s candidacy was controversial in 2011 because of fears that she would pardon her father, who remains in prison on human rights abuses, potentially undermining the rule of law and encouraging impunity in the future. Humala has consistently refused to release Fujimori from prison, and the former dictator’s health has declined so much that the pardon issue may lack the same relevance in 2016. Proving the rule of the lingering unpopularity of Peruvian presidents, both Toledo and former president Alan García poll far behind. Fujimori’s record is still controversial in Peru, where supporters believe his economic reforms put Peru on the path to stable inflation and GDP growth and opponents point to his disrespect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. His daughter, Keiko Fujimori, seems more committed to democratic Peru, though her frontrunner status in 2016 means that Peruvians could spend more time hand-wringing about the past than envisioning the future.

One possibility is Luis Castañeda, who returned to the mayor’s office in Lima last October and who has already run for the Peruvian presidency twice. The pragmatism and pro-development agenda of his first two terms as mayor between 2003 and 2010, appealed to the Peruvian business community. So far, however, Castañeda has spent much of his third term seemingly engaged in settling scores with his immediate predecessor, the more leftist Susana Villarán, instead of establishing a platform for a third presidential campaign in 2016.