CNN INTERNATIONAL INSIGHT
Peru's Top Prize
Aired April 6, 2001 - 17:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TUMI MAKGABO, INSIGHT (voice-over): After Alberto -- Peru's presidential hopefuls ask for support in a country where it used to be bought or stolen. Can a clean election lead to a clean start?
(on camera): Hello, and welcome to INSIGHT. I'm Tumi Makgabo. I'm in for Jonathan Mann.
It's difficult for Peruvians to look forward when they're still learning so much about their recent past. The former chief of the country's armed forces has just been added to the list of those accused of corruption during Fujimori's reign. Fujimori himself is in self-imposed exile in Japan while the hunt goes on for his former spy chief.
The three candidates with a chance to become Peru's next president all say they'll stamp out corruption. But that's where their similarities end. Fujimori's formal rival, Alejandro Toledo, leads in the polls but isn't expected to win outright in this Sunday's election. That opens the door for two others who want to take him on in a runoff - Lourdes Flores and former president Alan Garcia.
On INSIGHT today - Peru's top prize. We begin with profiles of the candidates.
(voice-over): Peruvian city squares are filled with the tireless chanting of the name "Pachacutec", the most famous of the Incan emperors. Flattering as the comparison may be, Alejandro Toledo is also known in other cities as the cholos, a less complimentary term referring to people with indigenous roots.
An economist by training, Toledo holds two masters degrees and a Ph.D. in human resources from Stanford University. His main electoral draw lies in his past success in confronting the administration of former president Alberto Fujimori.
ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA, WRITER (through translator): There is an amazing degree of connection and communication between Alejandro Toledo and the Peruvian population. It's something I had experienced at the march of the four regions, a very pluralistic, well-attended effort where there was a kind of popular fervor around the civilian leadership of Alejandro Toledo.
MAKGABO: Toledo comes from a humble background, growing up in a modest neighborhood in the coastal Peruvian town of Cabana. The eighth of 16 children, he tells the story of how, as a child, he worked shining shoes on the street. Before entering politics, he'd reached a position as an international consultant and director of a major economic institute.
Thus, he embodies the image of a Peruvian who has succeeded in overcoming poverty.
ALFREDO NOVOA, FORMER BUSINESS SCHOOL DIRECTOR (through translator): Alejandro is an academic, an intellectual of great integrity and loyalty to his friends with a clear vision for Peru and great expectations for what he can do for his country.
MAKGABO: Toledo's wife, Eliane Cobb (ph), born in a Jewish family in Belgium, also has an interesting background. Some say she's been a significant asset to his campaign. In recent weeks, there have been reports accusing Toledo of unacknowledged extramarital paternity, of lying about an alleged kidnapping and of medical examinations revealing traces of cocaine and the hypnotic drug Phenobarbital.
But despite the bad publicity, Toledo remains the front-runner while his party, Peru Posible, or Possible Peru, has made a clear campaign promise to create jobs and put an end to corruption.
Cheerful, articulate and with a solid background in politics, Lourdes Flores Nano is the first Peruvian woman to aspire to the presidency. Flores began her political career at the age of 18, and her achievements since then have been notable. At 41, she heads Unidad Nacional, an alliance of two conservative political groups and the Christian Popular Party of which she is a member.
SARA CRITER, PPC MEMBER (through translator): She is a woman seasoned by over 20 years in politics, seasoned in finding solutions for Peru's problems. She is very familiar with the farming sector because both her father and grandfather are agricultural engineers. So she is aware of farmers' needs.
MAKGABO: The only child of a middle class couple, single and an avid sports fan, Lourdes Flores fights to defend her second place in opinion polls. It has not been an easy campaign for her. Critics claim she has plans to bring several officials associated with former president Alberto Fujimori's administration into the parliament.
Though she denied the accusation, it still hurt her initially. That's according to analysts. Despite these setbacks, Flores and her supporters are confident they'll make it to a runoff election and ultimately the presidency.
ARMANDO BUENDIA, FORMER PPC MINISTER (through translator): Her character, her intelligence. She is a woman who sets goals and then achieves them. She always acts above board, never resorting to underhandedness. I think these are permanent qualities she has always been graced with.
MAKGABO: A lawyer by profession, Flores also holds a master's degree in legal consulting for companies and institutions, as well as a doctorate. In 1992, she was selected among 200 young leaders from around the world by the World Economic Forum. Time magazine profiled her among 100 of the world's leaders.
Lourdes Flores has also served as municipal council woman and completed three terms as a congresswoman. She entered the presidential race in 1995 but dropped out a few days later. This time, however, as she has made clear, she plans to fight to the end.
Blessed with considerable rhetorical talent and a magnetic personality, former Peruvian president Alan Garcia has recently surprised observers of Peru's electoral campaign process. His popularity has risen, and he is now a challenger to Lourdes Flores for second place in the polls.
This, despite being burdened by a disastrous record in the presidency. Very few were satisfied with his administration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He has learned. He has more experience, and I don't think he will make the same mistakes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I still remember standing in line during his administration.
MAKGABO: Heading a party with a long tradition accustomed to struggles and adversity, Alan Garcia returned to Peru last January after almost nine years in exile. He's a lawyer and holds a graduate degree in political science. He's married with four children.
HUGO OTERO, GARCIA CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR (through translator): He's quick as lightning. His creativity just flows, I believe, and I've said it. I'm his campaign director, of course, but I think the real campaign director for this successful 5-day campaign has been Alan himself.
MAKGABO: According to analysts, Garcia's popularity has grown because his speeches address the economic issues affecting common citizens, such as prices and interest rates for bank loans. His pledge to rural voters is to bring back a specialized bank for the agricultural sector.
When former president Garcia returned to Peru, he was the candidate facing the most resistance. Two months later, having acknowledged some past mistakes, he could be a real contender.
(on camera): And we will talk more about those contenders and what they intend to do with their country in just a moment. Don't go away.
MAKGABO: And welcome back.
Alejandro Toledo is the clear leader in opinion polls in Peru with up to 45 percent of the prospective vote. But that's just shy of an outright victory, and it's thought that a runoff against Lourdes Flores or Alan Garcia could be extremely close.
We spoke with Mirko Lauer of La Republica newspaper, which has not endorsed any of the candidates. He said this is an election with a difference.
MIRKO LAUER, LA REPUBLICA: People are fairly convinced, I understand, that the next elections on Sunday will be clean and correct elections. I think that after many years, this is a novelty in Peru. People will believe in the results, and therefore most of the discussions are among different candidates. I think this is the main aspect of our election right now, and for us, it's very important.
MAKGABO: Let's talk then a little bit about what the people of Peru are looking for in trying to decide which candidate is going to be their next president. What criteria do they use?
LAUER: Several criteria, as a matter of fact. One is their track record in terms of fighting for democracy and against dictatorship. I think this is what is keeping Mr. Alejandro Toledo ahead of the race.
The second thing people are looking for is the capacity to run Peru in troubled economic times. In this aspect, I think that people are divided between Mr. Toledo, who has a very orthodox economic proposal. It seems closer to a liberal, a neo-liberal economic position. And Mr. Alan Garcia from the APRA Party, who is criticizing the current government program and would like to go more into a social democratic type of economy.
MAKGABO: All right. Let's talk then also about maybe another aspect of these elections. Let's look for a moment, you mentioned how the economy seems to be very important in the people's choices and decision-making process when it comes to electing their new president. So the person who's coming into office, what sort of obstacles are they facing?
LAUER: Well, the first obstacle is a huge foreign debt that was almost deliberately stacked towards the 21st century and that represents a huge percentage of our exports. The second problem is economic stagnation and a diminishing flow of short-term capital from outside and the virtual destruction of our productive capacity in areas like industry and agriculture and even fishing along the past 10 years.
On top of this, the feeling is that the struggle for democracy has triggered a revolution of rising expectations. I mean, as the elections are advancing towards the first round, we see that there are more and more economic protests in the Peruvian countryside and in the main cities of the interior.
MAKGABO: Now is there a sense among the people of Peru that of these candidates running for the presidential - for the presidency this time around, that perhaps they will be able to do something about this increasing incidence of corruption that we've seen over the past few months?
LAUER: Well, yes. I think that in all three cases, people are expecting a fairer deal in terms of morality than with Mr. Fujimori- Montesinos. Now, this is not difficult because they were outright crooks. Now the problem with corruption is not only a problem of persons. It is a problem of systems.
In this sense, everyone expects the next government not only to run the economy and the day-to-day affairs, but to produce a full-fledged state reform. Peru's judiciary needs reforming. Peru's communications systems and legislature needs reforming. Peru's military system needs reforming. So I would say that the best deal, the best bet for Peru's next government will be to be a reformist government that can modernize the structure of the state.
Mr. Alberto Fujimori produced some degree of modernization in the economy, especially in the most modern sector. This government will have to modernize the state, which is almost equivalent to saying it will have to modernize society.
MAKGABO: Now you've mentioned all these reforms that need to be made, major points of concern no doubt for Peruvians. What sort of information and access to information do voters have to ensure that whatever decision they make, it becomes an informed one?
LAUER: Well, to begin we have had a long campaign. The struggle for democracy that started with the electoral fraud of last year's election has produced a very intense political year from April 2000 to April 2001. And this has allowed everyone to more or less get to know the candidates, all of whom have participated one way or another in the struggle for democracy.
On the other hand, there could have been more economic proposals than the ones we have seen, this is true. But in the last days, the great outlines of economic proposals have appeared. And the other aspect of this is that there will mostly likely be a runoff election, a second round, that will give Peruvians again a good six to seven weeks to get to know the main two candidates even better.
MAKGABO: Now the main two candidates, one of whom is Alan Garcia, who was a president formally in the 1990s. Has that former presidency of his in any way had an impact on his campaign and perhaps even his popularity among Peruvians?
LAUER: Oh, I think it has. Mr. Alan Garcia is a very good candidate, I think. By far the best of the lot. But the memory of hyperinflation and problems with terrorism out of control in the second half of the `80s is, I think, what is really keeping him away from victory in this case. People are still wondering just how much he has learned over the past 10 years in a social democratic Europe and wondering whether he can be trusted to put his governing responsibility ahead of his own personal political popularity.
I think that's the albatross he has hanging from his neck right now.
MAKGABO: And what about some of the other candidates, the other two candidates - one of whom is Alejandro Toledo. And the other is Lourdes Flores.
LAUER: Well, Mr. Alejandro Toledo has become, in the course of the campaign, an unlikely mixture of a populist in politics to the degree of practicing some forms of identity politics or ethnic politics or even racial politics. And at the same time, a dyed in the wool, neo-liberal in economic terms.
People are wondering, especially among the middle classes and upwards how he will combine this populism with his neo-liberalism. And I think that is what has prevented him from winning the election with more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round.
As for Ms. Lourdes Flores, who is running as a social Christian candidate and who is clearly the candidate further to the right, I think that what her main problem in this campaign has been that she has not managed to really differentiate herself from Alejandro Toledo.
They think in very similar terms in the economy. And since they have no real political organizations to speak of, as the election advanced, as it progressed, people started feeling that if they were going to vote for Lourdes Flores, they might as well vote for Mr. Toledo who was running up front.
MAKGABO: Mirko Lauer, thank you very much for joining us. Thanks again.
After the break - picking up the pieces after Fujimori. We'll be right back.
MAKGABO (voice-over): Fujimori's folly. Alberto Fujimori returned to his roots, Japan, last November as the net closed in around him in the wake of bribery scandals. But his troubles began before that in May, when he won a controversial third term in office amid allegations of electoral irregularities.
Now the former president has been charged in absentia with dereliction of duty. He could also face charges of corruption and even homicide. The man who allegedly did much of Fujimori's bidding is also a fugitive. Tapes showing former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos bribing officials were the final straw for the Peruvian people.
(on camera): Welcome back.
Peru's two most powerful men of the last decade might be gone, but the institutions they controlled remain. So how difficult will it be for the next president to fix the damage? David Scott Palmer has written several books about Peru's political and military history. He's also the chairman of Boston University's department of political science.
David Scott Palmer, thank you for joining us, and welcome to the program.
DAVID SCOTT PALMER, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
MAKGABO: First of all, trying to deal with the two men believed to have been the most powerful in Peru who are now both left the country, can you give us a sense of how corrupt the system of government in Peru really is?
PALMER: Well, it certainly was much deeper and much more pervasive than anyone had expected. The estimates now, based on offshore accounts that have been uncovered and projections, run in the neighborhood of $800 million to $1 billion that was siphoned off by various officials in the regime.
MAKGABO: Now one point of concern perhaps to anybody looking in and looking at the stories that we've been hearing from Peru in the recent past few months is that both Fujimori and Montesinos have left their legacies within the system of government in Peru, in particular Vladimiro Montesinos who, at this stage, remains at large. No one knows where he is.
And yet it seems that he somehow still manages to be in touch with those in power in Peru. How does that work in light of this new election?
PALMER: Well, certainly it's a very complex situation. But I think we should also focus on the degree to which the transitional government has been able to purge the institutions most affected by Montesinos in particular. The military - several hundred officers retired and some arrested. So there is progress being made. But it's clear that Montesinos still has an influence in some circles, though I think the institutionalists are again on the rise within the Peruvian military and police establishments.
MAKGABO: Now you mentioned some of the spheres that perhaps have been purged of those influences. Is it a system in Peru whereby people who are in politics, who are in the various political parties perhaps have a long history of doing so? So this type of behavior, perhaps the corruption and the irregularities in elections, is not something that's new, that's been there for years and years and years. And though the leader might change, the system might not.
PALMER: Well, I think what happened in Peru was that over the course of the 1990s, the system became more and more affected by corruption. One of the ironies is that one of the three leading candidates for the elections this Sunday is a former president of Peru, Alan Garcia, who himself was accused of serious corruption during his administration.
I think there is a sense that no one appreciated the degree and the depth of the corruption, nor the degree of manipulation of the electoral system and serious efforts have been made to cleanse out the system, make it more transparent. And I think we're going to see on Sunday a much more open and a genuine reflection of popular will.
MAKGABO: So what kind of pressure then does the new president of Peru face when he comes into office from the international community in light of this corruption?
PALMER: This will be a severe test of the new president, whomever that might be. The economic situation in Peru is precarious. There is a recession. There are some serious difficulties. Most foreign investors and would-be investors are waiting to see how the election turns out. So I believe it will be a very difficult period.
Debt repayments are very severe over the next two or three years. So there will be serious negotiations with the international financial community. No, there are serious challenges still ahead.
MAKGABO: And how much support will the new president have from the people of Peru because they are, no doubt, very disillusioned in light of the situation left behind by Vladimiro Montesinos and Alberto Fujimori.
PALMER: Yes, that's very true. But I think we should not underestimate the degree of satisfaction and hope that a significant proportion of the population feels at being able to turn the system around, to force the resignation of Fujimori and his removal from power. And the new government has worked against very difficult odds to establish its legitimacy, its credibility.
And I think there will be a sense of catharsis and relief on the part of the majority of the Peruvian population.
MAKGABO: David Scott Palmer, thank you very much for joining us.
PALMER: My pleasure.
MAKGABO: And that's INSIGHT for this day. I'm Tumi Makgabo. Thanks for watching. The news on CNN continues.
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