Sad sad sad

Mamacita linda is so sad right now we almost adopted another puppy, but not even that could cheer her up. The result of the Presidential elections here shows that there will be a runoff between Keiko Fujimori and either PPK or Veronika Mendoza. Right now exit polls show a statistical dead heat between PPK and Veronika but the sentiment here is that Veronika has the advantage (later reporting areas will likely favor her over PPK).

The thought of a Veronika presidency is unbearable to Mamacita Linda. I don’t have a dog in this fight but I don’t think Veronika Mendoza has the right composure or vision to be President of Peru at this time either.

FWIW a friend who knows Veronika personally (and knows her quite well) tells me she’s a good person.

Update: With a good part of the votes now counted the 2nd round runoff will be between PPK and Keiko Fujimori, which is less bad for Peru IMHO. Official results here.

Multiple guess: 2016 Peru presidential candidates

Which of the following is a candidate for president in the 2016 Peru presidential elections:

a) A drunk.
b) A cheat.
c) A guy allegedly tied to the murder of a journalist.
d) A dude who insults supporters and whose body guards beat up hecklers.
e) All of the above.

Winners and losers of the 2016 Peru presidential elections so far:

WINNER: Keiko Fujimori, because she’ll be the next Prez of Peru and has managed to present herself as a rather reasonable person and candidate in the midst of this entire farce that passes for democratic elections.

WINNER: Julio Guzman, a guy nobody knew a few months ago and became a leading candidate before getting banned by the electoral body (for now). No matter what happens in this election cycle he looks likely to be an influential politico going forward.

LOSER: Everybody who hoped there would be substantive change for the better any time soon.

LOSER: Whoever got paid to write Cesar Acuña’s thesis back in the day because you know that dude’s in deep doo-doo now that everybody knows he or she copied/pasted the whole thing.

Peru Presidential Elections 2016: F*cked up like a turkey on Thanksgiving

This time I’m worried.

Some were worried 5 years ago if Ollanta Humala were elected President of Peru he’d move the country radically left a la Venezuela but I said nothing would change, that Humala would look out for whoever paid Peru the most, ie. the Lima political/business establishment and foreign investors.

This time around however, Peru’s upcoming presidential elections have me worried. The biggest problem facing the country in my opinion is extreme institutional weakness caused by corruption and incompetence. No matter what the policies or ideological convictions of the next Prez, Peru needs to address this institutional weakness or risk becoming a failed state like Colombia in the 1980s.

Today’s news of Julio Guzman, a leading candidate in the upcoming elections, being banned from the vote after several back-and-forth decisions by the national electoral body is just one – albeit highly visible – example of the type of institutional weakness that pervades every part of society now in Peru.

As another example, a friend of ours told us one of the recent mayors of the city of Cusco created 3,000 new positions in city government for his supporters and made no effort at all to give them formal responsibilities or keep them from cleaning out the city’s coffers any way they saw fit.

Unfortunately I don’t think any of the leading presidential candidates would move to address the rampant corruption and incompetence. At the moment Keiko Fujimori is favored to win the presidency and in my opinion she would likely send Peru further down the path of a failed state if elected. I don’t think her personal qualifications or convictions are even relevant in that, what worries me is that all of her supporters who have been loyal to her father’s movement for 15+ years since her father got run out of the country will come out of the proverbial woodwork to claim their reward for 15 years of support.

If I was advising a foreign company on investing in Peru at the moment I’d say keep a clear path to the exit.

Double Espresso

If you don’t have everything you want in life, ask yourself, how many friends do you have at the grocery store? This isn’t my original idea and making a friend or two at the grocery store won’t make you rich and famous overnight but most anything we want to achieve in life starts with breaking the ice and obtaining the trust of a perfect stranger. Need a new job, looking for a relationship, trying to get your business plan funded? Chances are, it involves making friends or acquaintances with perfect strangers.

All this to say a couple of years ago we had a baby-sit during the summer whom I met through her older sister, a checkout girl at our local grocery store. They were from a rural town (Sicuani) and the older sister worked 60+ hour weeks (10am to nearly 11pm 6 days a week) for a salary of less than $300 / month, to make a little money for her family and save up for school. This is not unusual in Peru, workers feel like they have no better choice and very often maybe they don’t.

Tomorrow regional and municipal elections are held here in Peru. Frank Bajak wrote a good article about how Cocaine cash is polluting Peruvian politics. There practically aren’t any ideologies or party lines in Peruvian politics any more, it’s just a rush to get in and steal.

“Politics has lost all ethical sense. Now, it’s just about being a pickpocket”

I often wonder, what if the middle class would have the self-confidence to demand better, to stand up to their corrupt and incompetent leaders. By and large, it seems as if the working class and middle class suffers from a sort of misplaced desperation, instead of demanding better they’re just dying to “get in” with the local elected leaders and get a piece of the pie. As if they don’t believe they can do better without resorting to the established way of corruption and incompetence. I often think it’s about self-confidence, all the way back to the kids education: the so-called “good schools” here don’t encourage critical thinking or standing up for yourself but they are very strong about falling in line, discipline and rote memorization.

One day when Anna, our old babysit, was getting ready to go back to school in her town I was at the Plaza de Armas and decided to have a cup of coffee with her. A new Starbucks had just opened up. We went inside and I said to Anna, one day you’re going to walk in here with all of your friends, and they’re going to be all nervous-nellie, staring at their feet because they feel out of place here, fumbling around because they won’t know what they want. They’ll be looking up at all these gringos and city-slickers ordering Frappuccinos as if those people are really somebody.

And I told her: “Don’t you dare to act like that. Hold your head up and look everybody in the eyes. Walk straight up to the counter and order a double espresso.

She replied: “I don’t even know what that is.”

I said don’t worry about that, I’m sure you’ll like it. Then we walked up to the counter and ordered 2 double espressos. Anna was only 14 and I don’t know if she understood what I was trying to tell her. I told her to never look down because of where she was from. When in doubt, hold your head up straight and order a double espresso. Let people know you don’t take stuff from anybody.

* * *

Brianna Nayaraq

Just a pretty picture of my baby goose.

PPK tocando flauta

I said I’d stay away from politics and that’s still true. However with the Peruvian presidential election campaigns coming to a close you can’t get away from it. The upcoming election (Sunday) does promise to be interesting, with Alejandro Toledo, Keiko Fujimori and PPK (Pedro Pablo Kuczynski) all in a close race for second place behind Ollanta Humala. The 2 candidates with the most votes go to a runoff election in June.

During his televised “closing rally” in Lima last night PPK played the flute as he often does before his stump speeches. Regardless of politics, I’d have to think he’ll get a few extra points for this.

Peru presidential elections are almost here

Peru’s 2011 Presidential elections are almost upon us. April 10 is the big day, and I believe tonight is the final televised debate between the leading candidates.

Let me say 2 things first:

1) I am a guest in Peru so it doesn’t matter to me who wins or loses. I’m privileged to be here and however the Peruvian people choose to govern their country is up to them.
2) I’m Belgian, so you should never take my advice on any matters of politics or government. When it comes to politics, the only thing we Belgians can say is “Thank God for Italy!”

Having said all that, here’s a few notes about the leading candidates in Peru’s upcoming 2011 Presidential elections, for no purpose other than to show how the candidates come across to a gringo. Official bios, photos, web pages and the like can be found here.

1) Alejandro Toledo: He was Peru’s president from 2001 to 2006 and was first Peruvian president of native Indian (Quechua) heritage, but his politics were free-market oriented. He left office to rather low approval ratings, due to the fact that many felt the macro-economic gains that were made did not extend to all Peruvians. On the other hand, nothing bad or particularly controversial happened during his tenure, which was a welcome change from the late 20th century. He’s considered a strong candidate in the upcoming elections, but I know someone who knows some people who know Toledo and say less than favorable things about him.

2) Lucho Castañeda: He was mayor of Lima (home to about 30% of Peru’s population) from 2003 to 2010 and enjoyed generally good approval ratings, easily winning re-election. He implemented the Metropolitano bus system in Lima, which has to be regarded as a great success – although it’s only a small first step in Lima’s transportation solution. Otherwise I don’t know much about Castañeda’s ideology. He’s divorced and conventional wisdom says he has little chance of becoming president without a first lady.

3) Ollanta Humala: He’s the villain of them all, widely painted by his opponents as a “leftist” of the same mold of Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez. Humala narrowly lost the 2006 Presidential elections. He seems to have moderated his stance on some issues like foreign investment, but he remains a controversial figure. His opponents and the establishment in general paint a sad picture of Peru heading for the same abyss as Bolivia under Evo Morales should Ollanta Humala be elected, ignoring the fact that Bolivia has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America and Evo enjoys high approval ratings. But since when does reality trump ideology in this world? Of all the leading candidates Humala is the only one who’s married to a Peruvian, so at least outside of politics he has good judgement 😉

4) Keiko Fujimori: She’s the daughter of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori. Her father was president from 1990 to 2000, when he was driven out of the country by a popular revolution. During Alberto Fujimori’s regime, Peru saw an end to terrorism and the economic chaos of the 1980s, but his regime was also marked by human rights abuse and corruption, especially in later years. Keep in mind that Peru has a very young population (partly due to the stability that was brought under Fujimori) and something like 20% of the voting public has no adult memory of Fujimori’s presidency. However, there has remained a strong “Fujimori” following and political party in Peru, led now by his daughter Keiko. I don’t know much about Keiko’s ideological convictions, but her VP candidate is ultra-conservative. I guess Keiko has a chance only if someone can be elected president just for being the child of a well-known ex-president. Eerrrgh, wait, where did I see that one before?

5) PPK or Pedro Pablo Kuczynski: He’s Patricia’s favorite, and the favorite of many of her friends as well. I have a PPK poster on the window, but my dog barks at it. It has to be said my dog is one of the dumber dogs you’ll ever meet. In seriousness, PPK is perhaps the most Western of all the leading candidates. He held US citizenship (I think he renounced it before the elections) and has worked on Wall Street. He has a free-market ideology and as minister of economy under Toledo should take some credit for the macro-economic gains that Peru has made. Although I’m not a fan of this ideology (ie. what’s good for business is good for everyone), I have to say that PPK appears to be a thoughtful and reasonable person, and considering his age and previously successful career I would be more inclined to believe that he’s running to serve the country as opposed to running in order to make financial gain for himself and his inner circle.

Finally, it always strikes me how so many politicians no matter where you are would like you to believe the world as you know it would end without their magnificent leadership. Consider this quote from the Ottawa Citizen about Belgian politics, titled No Government, No Problem:

Take Belgium, for instance. It’s a European country riven by ethnic tensions. Its public debt is almost as big as its total annual output and it’s in the middle of a political crisis so deep that this week it passed Iraq as the modern-day state whose politicians have taken the longest to form a government.
Yet the buses run more or less on time, the garbage is collected twice a week, exports of pharmaceuticals, chocolate and beer have gone on without interruption and it can still take about a month to get a new telephone line. Life goes on.

And that quote is more than a month old by now, still no Belgian government, beer exports are still going on fine 😉

Peru elections 2010 – ley seca

Yesterday Peru held local / municipal elections. I don’t follow politics very closely but the local elections seem to be quite important because in the provinces outside Lima the local government seems to be more relevant than the central government back in Lima.

Here are the official 2010 Peru election results.

What amazed me about the elections is that the entire country was “dry” by ley seca. No alcohol was sold in the country during the entire election weekend.

Papi votes in Belgica, so no ley seca for papi! Mamacita went to a birthday party Saturday evening where I believe the ley seca might have been enforced a weee bit loosely as well 😉

no ley seca here!

no ley seca here!