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Goalkeeper, celibate millionaire, Gaddafi adviser vie for Peru presidency

Economist Hernando de Soto was an adviser to Mubarak in Egypt and Gaddafi of Libya.[Getty]

Date of publication: 9 April, 2021

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Eighteen candidates will contest a first round of presidential elections in Peru.

Eighteen candidates will contest a first round of presidential elections in Peru on Sunday, none with more than 10 percent of support according to the most recent poll.

With no single contender set to win an outright majority, the top two will go through to a second voting round on June 6. 

These are the polled favorites.

Lescano

Leading the pack with 10 percent of polled support according to Ipsos is 62-year-old Yonhy Lescano, a lawyer and Catholic opposed to gay marriage and abortion, even in rape cases.

He represents the center-right Popular Action - Peru's oldest remaining political party, which has not won a presidential race in 40 years.

While adamantly opposed to nationalization, he has promised to rein in the "unbridled" nature of capitalism he says has enriched a Peruvian minority.

In a country with frequent corruption scandals, Lescano likes to invoke honesty values he ascribes to the ancient Inca empire, and recite the mantra: "Don't be a liar, don't be a thief, don't be idle" in the Quechua language.

He is married to lawyer Patricia Contador, whose father was an adviser to Chile's military junta, but who, Lescano has recently stressed publicly, is not related to dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Mendoza

Hoping to become Peru's first woman president is leftist Veronika Mendoza, founder and leader of the Together for Peru movement.

She contested for the top post in 2016 as well, and came third with 19 percent of the vote. This time, she is polling in joint second place, just one percentage point behind Lescano, according to the most recent Ipsos poll.

The France-trained psychologist was born in the old Inca capital of Cusco to a French mother and Peruvian father, and speaks Quechua as well as her father and mother tongues.

Mendoza has proposed changing Peru's laws to protect workers and the environment, boost national production and finance social programs.

She advocates for the State to take control of natural resources such as gas, without going as far as expropriation.

De Soto

Sharing the second spot is economist Hernando de Soto, 79, a former adviser to ex-presidents Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Indonesia's Mohamed Suharto - all unseated after popular uprisings.

He heads the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, a Lima-based think tank devoted to the promotion of property rights in developing countries, and is the author of two widely cited books on the economy.

With the highest international profile of the 18 candidates, De Soto represents Avanza Pais (Advance Country), a relatively small party with free-market ideology and no national representation.

Domestically, he has been an economic adviser to former president Alberto Fujimori, credited with halting hyperinflation during his term.

De Soto has also advised Fujimori's daughter, Keiko, one of his rivals in Sunday's elections.

'Forzay'

Best known as a goalkeeper for the Alianza Lima club, 38-year-old George Forsyth is the youngest candidate.

Many Peruvians have difficulty pronouncing his family name, and he is popularly referred to simply as "Forzay."

He rode his football popularity to the mayorship of the capital's populous La Victoria district - where his team is based - in 2018.

Born in Venezuela, to a Peruvian diplomat and a former Miss Chile, Forsyth played football from childhood and professionally for clubs in Peru, Germany and Italy. He boasts seven caps for his national team.

He is the candidate for center-right National Victory party and has chosen an anti-crime message for his campaign.

Fujimori

Heiress of a troubled political dynasty, 45-year-old Keiko Fujimori is taking her third shot at the post once held by her father, now jailed.

But she faces a considerable obstacle: charges brought by Peruvian prosecutors for allegedly taking money from scandal-tainted Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to fund previous presidential bids in 2011 and 2016.

She denies any wrongdoing but spent 16 months in pre-trial detention until her release in May 2020.

Fujimori leads the Popular Force, which was the official opposition from 2016 to 2020 when it suffered a crushing defeat in legislative elections.

Fujimori has spent half her life in politics, initially against her will, she has said.

When her parents split in 1994, when she was 19, she became stand-in first lady, later breaking ties with her brother in a tussle for the political mantle once held by their father. 

Alberto Fujimori is remembered fondly by some for how he dealt with the then-twin problems of hyperinflation and terror, but is currently in jail for crimes against humanity committed during his term.

Keiko Fujimori has vowed to pardon her father should she win.

Lopez Aliaga 

The leading far-right candidate is Rafael Lopez Aliaga, a celibate Catholic millionaire nicknamed "Porky" for his supposed resemblance to the Looney Tunes character, Porky Pig. 

As leader of the Christian Popular Renovation party he created in 2020, Lopez Aliaga pushes a brand of Christian nationalism reminiscent of former US president Donald Trump or Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro - of whom some say he is the Peruvian version.

With a strong anti-corruption message, the 60-year-old has also vowed to revise a free-trade treaty with China, Peru's main trading partner, to boost local industry.

He is a follower of the strict Catholic discipline Opus Dei, and says he represses his sexual desire by praying to the Virgin Mary and by wearing a self-castigating "cilice" - a sort of spiked belt - for ten to 20 minutes daily.

Lopez Aliaga made his fortune at the head of a company that runs trains between Cusco and the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

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