TAMPA - The Peruvian community in Tampa reacted with surprise and skepticism to the results of the presidential election in Peru, which now will have to be decided in a runoff between two candidates.
“This is all a surprise,” said 54-year-old Peruvian Carlos Adrianzen, of Riverview.
The runoff will be held on June 6 between Pedro Castillo, 51, an elementary school teacher and far-left former union activist whose party constantly praises the Cuban and Venezuelan model, and Keiko Fujimori, 45, the daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori.
During general elections on April 11 none obtained the more than 50 percent of support needed to avoid a runoff. Castillo had 19 percent followed by opposition leader Fujimori at 13 percent.
Peruvians also voted for the 130 members of the unicameral congress. The legislature will be split among at least 11 parties out of the 18 that participated in the elections.
Adrianzen was one of 1,000 Peruvian voters who participated in the election held at the Tampa Convention Center.
“We do not know how Castillo appeared leading the vote because nobody knows him,” said Adrianzen, a former police officer in Peru. “It has been a phenomenon, but I honestly don’t understand what happened.”
The number of voters who participated in Tampa was quite small, said honorary consul Juan Carlos Ibarra. There are 9,526 Peruvians registered to vote, according to Ibarra.
“You have to consider that we have had a very difficult year,” added Ibarra. “Here, as in Peru, Hispanics are scared because of this pandemic. There are also many people who have not been vaccinated and who have preferred to stay at home.”
In Peru the pandemic left about 7 million people unemployed. The country has been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, with more than 1.7 million cases and more than 57,000 deaths.
Freddy Dulanto, a Peruvian immigrant who works cleaning offices in Tampa, said he voted for right-wing economist Hernando de Soto.
He believes the election of Castillo or Fujimori could lead to a new economic and institutional crisis in Peru, like those in Venezuela and Cuba, because neither of them wants to impose a clear monetary and fiscal policy to expand the private sector.
“We have two finalists who are not the best for Peru,” said Dulanto, 52. “It’s a completely unfavorable situation. We don’t want to see in Peru the pain that Venezuelans and Cubans are suffering.”
Felipe Mantilla, associate professor at the School of Global Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of South Florida, said that the situation in Peru is the result of unease and distrust of a dysfunctional system.
In the last five years the country has had five presidents. Three of them were jailed and one, former president Alan Garcia, died by suicide in 2019 before he was to be arrested.
“It is a rejection of the elites who have closed the way and have limited the possibilities of development to thousands of Peruvians,” said Mantilla. “Everything is surprising because two weeks ago nobody knew who Castillo was. And two weeks ago nobody believed that Fujimori was capable of reaching the second round.”
Aldo Rodríguez, a Peruvian business owner in Brandon, said the results raise many questions.
“What is happening in Peru is something very strange,” said Rodríguez, 60. “It’s impossible that candidates like Castillo or Fujimori, who has problems with the law, are leading the top positions.”
Until May, Keiko Fujimori was incarcerated on money laundering charges. She has denied the allegations and was released on bail. She is awaiting trial on charges of having accepted more than $1 million from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht for her unsuccessful presidential campaigns in 2011 and 2016.
In the last 30 years Odebrecht has become the main contractor for the government of Peru. But authorities say Odebrecht paid more than $29 million in bribes to Peruvian officials, lobbyists, public figures and politicians in exchange for favors and contracts. Fujimori is also accused of leading a criminal organization within her party that would have obtained money and illicit donations from improper sources, violating the nation’s law.
Her father, meanwhile, is serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and the killing of 25 people
Vanessa Cahuas, a Peruvian freelance media producer and translator in federal court in Tampa, said Peruvians have always been in the midst of political crises and polarized elections that reflect the internal problems of the country.
She recalled the 2006 election between Garcia and Ollanta Humala, who was considered to be a left-wing nationalist.
An fragmented electorate voted for Garcia to avoid a socialist government.
“Nobody else can decide for us,” said Cahuas. “For better or worse the runoff will depend on our own aspirations.”