I did sort of follow the Peruvian election, but now I regret that I did not follow it closely as it has turned out to be quite interesting, and significant for the future of our region. But first, let's dismiss the Peruvian election before we get into the real good stuff-
I do not think that Chavez wanna-be Ollanta Humala will win, even though the almost artistic division of the center and right in 4 viable candidates has made things unnecessarily easy for him to win. But there has been 20 years, more or less, of continuous economic grow in Peru and even if the mountains and Amazon have not benefited as much, I think that the Pacific shore, open wide to globalization, will carry the day against Humala on the second round. After all, Humala had a much easier challenger to defeat last time around with Alan Garcia: anyone of the 4, from Fujimori's daughter to Lima ex mayor is way more appealing than Alan Garcia was. Thus, barred some last minute catastrophe, Humala should make it to the second run, as the winner of the first round, and lose in the second round, even if rather narrowly. Here the real electoral result will be on how the new legislature would look like, if it reflects the undermining work of Humala in the past 5 years to build something that in 5 years might have a real chance at winning.
Make no mistake: after the 2006 defeat Chavez and Humala have adopted a more long term approach to winning in Peru. We saw that a few days ago when "Yo Prometo" of Globovision showed us a small settlement in Peru, a "gift" from Venezuela after some earth quake, made of about a hundred plastic homes from "Petrocasa". Over there all knew very well who Chavez was but had no or very little idea as to whom Simon Bolivar was! How far such a feel is spread will be known tomorrow.
What is really more telling for the future of the region, unless Humala wins, is the involvement of Brazil behind the scenes. Or rather, of Brazil's PT, the inheritor of Brazilian imperialist tendencies if you will.
When Lula was president one of his stumbling blocks at his attempt at leading the region was the indifference of Peru. In fact, maybe Peru was not really opposed to a major role for Brazil, but Alan Garcia was a home policy president with little interest for foreign ventures. The inertia of Peru at many a summit, with its willingness to get out of its shell only to counter Chavez, was enough to block the supremacy sought by Brasilia, even if that one often was hidden behind the Chavez scarecrow. You know, like "if you do not like what I am telling you what to do then it will be Chavez that will tell you".
It is much easier for Peru to ignore Brazil than any other South american country, even Chile or Ecuador. Peru is simply isolated sanitarily from Brazil by the huge Andes. As such Peru has turned itself decisively to the Pacific and has a rather limited trade with Brazil, probably small enough to be ignored if needed: according to the CIA fact book, exports to Brazil are less than 4% of Peru's exports. In fact, the amazonian advance of Brazil makes this one seen as a natural "threat" for Peru which must cross at much greater cost the Andes to link tot he Amazon basin.
Thus we should not be surprised by the novelty of the Peruvian campaign where many PT advisors went to Peru to soften the image of Humala, make him more palatable, make him more dependent on Brazil (than on Chavez?). As a matter of fact, a few days ago in Venezuela many eyebrows were raised when Lula met in the USA with Henri Falcon, former chavista but still current governor of Lara with more than likely his own presidential ambitions. That Lula had no problem in being seen with Henri Falcon is a major hint at what his self conceived role for the future of Brazil is: the creation of truly friendly movements around the subcontinent, political movements that will gravitate around the PT model of Brazil imperialism.
Finally, and maybe more importantly, we would not be holding such a discussion if it were not for the reelection bug, striking a democrat like Toledo this time around. Even though he finished his presidential term with ratings in the single digit the man thought he could overcome such a handicap. The less likely that Alan Garcia second term was at least as successful as Toledo's. Having led early polls strictly on name recognition, Toledo risks tomorrow to reach 4th position! In fact we could allow ourselves to speculate whether the presence of Toledo is not what explains that Humala is so safely parading in first place. Split Toledo's vote between Kuczynski and, gasp, Fujimori and Humala could well not make it at the second round! Polls were that close a couple of weeks back.......
When we look at the disgrace of Guatemala where the wife of the sitting president is divorcing him to mock a constitutional provision as to relatives of a president not allowed to run for office we must really start wondering seriously how much of our continental backwardness is due to that presidential system of choice in the area, and the need for power it generates. It is not that parliamentarian systems are not fool proof, after all Hitler became chancellor, not president at first. But parliamentary rule seems a better protection from wannabe autocrats: look at the recent example from Spain where in spite of all the problems that were associated to a third run of Zapatero, this one wanted to run and had to be stopped by his party, who reminded him that as a prime minister he was "primus inter pares", and that they were not going to take the fall just because he did not mind taking it.
Maybe this is the biggest idea emerging from the situations in Peru and Guatemala today, that the intelligentsia of South America sees the light and unites to ban, at the very least, reelection under any circumstances. The Mexicans have it right, if you ask me.
Meanwhile, let's hope that this Sunday Humala stays below 30% otherwise the creep could well make it at the second round and Peru's hard earned prosperity would be lost in a few months..... Just as Chavez lied to us in 1998 (note: I never believed a word of his) Humala is a liar through and through, equally to his Brazilian handlers and to the Peruvian people: his model is Chavez, not even the lighter Correa in Ecuador. Though we must admit that even if elected it would be more difficult for him as the Peruvian opposition will exist from the start and he could well lose a constitutional assembly even if he managed to get one elected.
But let's be optimistic. If Peru gets five more years of solid growth it might become the first South American country after Chile to escape our Latin american curse of idiotic leftism cum caudillo solution to all problems. Imagine 5 years from now, a solid Peru and Chile, maybe joined by Colombia, as a true area of prosperity and democracy, a real counterweight to Brazil's ambitions.