'El Gringo' v the heir apparent

By Harriet Alexander

Presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Photo / AP
Presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Photo / AP

Voters in Peru are choosing today between the daughter of their jailed strongman former ruler and a Wall Street banker related to Hollywood royalty as their president.

Keiko Fujimori, 41, the teenage first lady in the authoritarian regime of her father Alberto, was neck and neck with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, 77, as campaigning to replace leftist leader Ollanta Humala ended.

Both are centre-right figures, having knocked out the left's candidate in the first round of voting in Latin America's fastest-growing economy.

Peru grew 4.4 per cent in the first quarter, compared with 2.6 per cent in Mexico and 2 per cent in Chile, while Brazil contracted by 5.4 per cent.

Both promise that they have what it takes to keep Peru steamrolling ahead - Kuczynski draws on his financial experience at the World Bank, IMF and as Prime Minister, while Fujimori says she is well-versed in politics and in touch with real Peruvians.

Having lost the previous election in 2011, she has spent much of this presidential campaign touring the country drumming up support and rallying its rural poor.

Her opponent, by contrast, is nicknamed "El Gringo" - the American - for his ties to the US. He has tried to counter this by adopting a guinea pig as his election mascot - the animal is a national delicacy for Peruvians - and his supporters wear Inca costumes at rallies.

The son of Polish Jews who fled the Nazis, he is still seen as an outsider. From 1969 the Oxford-educated economist lived in exile in the US, heading investment banks and private firms. Kuczynski's wife, Nancy Lange, is a cousin of the double Oscar-winning actress Jessica Lange while Kuczynski's cousin is French film director Jean-Luc Godard.

Fujimori, married to an American consultant for IBM, became first lady at just 19 when her parents divorced. Her father Alberto Fujimori, 77, ruled Peru with an iron fist from 1990 until 2000. Praised for saving it from Shining Path guerrillas and salvaging the economy, he is currently serving 25 years in prison for death squad killings, having earlier been given six years for abuse of power. He claims the charges were politically motivated.

Kuczynski claims that if the 23 million voters today elect Fujimori as president it will mean "the return of dictatorship".

Fujimori said: "I want to be president of Peru to work for change - to build a great, prosperous country that is united and reconciled."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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