With 92.6% of the votes counted by Peru's official election agency, former finance minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski leads Keiko Fujimori 50.3% to 49.7%, the Wall Street Journal reports. This picture began to emerge yesterday afternoon, when flash polls by Ipsos and GFK showed a razor-thin lead by the center-right Kuczynski, though both candidates have pledged to wait for final results, reports BBC Mundo. Fujimori appeared hopeful in a speech yesterday evening, saying she was counting on rural voters and ballots from abroad to deliver a victory, according to AP.
This would be a stunning turnaround for Kuczynski, who in April's first round captured only 22% of the vote, compared to Fujimori's 40%, and even as recently as last week was trailing the daughter of Peru's imprisoned former leader by 5 to 7 points, reports El Pais, in an article that also describes the mood at various polling stations. In a separate piece, El Pais looks at the regions where Kuczynski made major gains in the final stretch of the election, attributing his possible comeback to several factors: the revelation that Fujimori's top advisor is being investigated for money laundering by the DEA; Kuczynski's recent endorsement by left-wing candidate Veronika Mendoza; and his recent appeal to voters not to elect a candidate who could demonstrate the same authoritarian tactics as her disgraced father.
If Kuczynski does prevail, he will need to work with "Fujimorismo" -- the party won 73 of 130 seats in the unicameral congress in April, the largest legislative majority in two decades. "Keiko Fujimori has already reshaped Peru's political landscape," notes AP. Kuczynski recognized this in a speech last night: "We're going to have a government built on consensus. No more low blows or fights," he said, according to BBC. Both candidates are market friendly and have promised investment in employment and infrastructure, Bloomberg reports. Both also promised election reform.
Whether or not the next president keeps his or her word on that promise will largely determine Peru's future as a democracy, argues Asociación Civil Transparencia in a blog post on Open Society's website. This election, though legal, was marred by irregularities and vague rules, which resulted in lax campaign finance oversight and the tossing out of two candidates back in April, possibly for political reasons. The NGO, which launched a platform for Peruvians to examine candidates' expenditures, warns that the legitimacy of elections could be called into question if tighter and clearer rules aren't devised.
No major complaints of fraud or violence emerged over the course of yesterday's voting, but with such a slim margin of victory, controversy is to be expected. Another twist to keep an eye on: Keiko's younger brother, Kenji Fujimori, apparently didn't vote for his sister yesterday, and has said he will run for president (against her?) in 2021, reports El Pais.
- Results of Mexico's gubernatorial elections are not yet final, but preliminary polls suggest defeat for the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional in at least three of its historic strongholds (Veracruz, Quintana Roo and Tamaulipas), El Pais reports. Ex-president Vicente Fox's conservative party, Partido Acción Nacional, appears to be on the rise again, while the new left-wing Morena party, led by two-time presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, claimed victory in legislative elections in Mexico City. Election-related violence was reported in several states, according to The Guardian. Stay tuned for final results, but note one takeaway: the 2018 presidential election has the potential to shake things up; yesterday's events show that a PRI victory is by no means guaranteed.
- A groundbreaking report by the Open Society Justice Initiative accuses the Mexican government of crimes against humanity in its war against drug cartels, reports the New York Times. The Justice Initiative, which has been working in Mexico for more than a decade, alleges that cases like that of 43 students disappeared in Iguala in 2014 are not "regrettable accidents" (in the words of the NYT) but rather "point to a pattern of indiscriminate force and impunity that is an integral part of the state's policy." President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration rejected the report's conclusions. The full text of the report, which incorporates more than three years of research by the Justice Initiative and five independent Mexican human rights organizations, is available here.
- Follow-up on Friday's post on Venezuela: Fighting continues within the Organization of American States, with secretary general Luis Almagro accusing Argentina's ambassador of blocking the call to a general assembly for political reasons, The Guardian reports. Almagro's complaint echoes reports that Argentina's president, Mauricio Macri, is trying to win favor with the Venezuelan government so that the latter supports the appointment of Argentina's foreign minister, Susan Malcorra, as the next United Nations secretary general.
- Chiquita banana executives face follow-up lawsuits from victims after pleading guilty in 2007 to making payments to Colombian paramilitary groups that tortured and killed thousands of Colombians, reports Bloomberg. "This support was given in order to reduce the company's operating costs in the production of bananas, knowing that violent deaths of thousands of civilians in banana-growing regions of Colombia would at be at least a collateral by-product of its support, if not an intended result," wrote a federal judge in a ruling last week that allows relatives of victims to pursue new claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act.
- One thing the safest Latin American cities have in common is evidence-based approaches to crime prevention, according to a joint study by The Inter-American Development bank, Instituto Igarapé, and the World Economic Forum. Though Latin America is home to 47 of the 50 most violent cities in the world (with San Salvador leading the list), it also has cities where violence has dropped dramatically in recent years (like Medellín and Ciudad Juárez). The study looks at these cities and extrapolates lessons for reducing crime and violence.
- One thing the most violent cities have in common: guns. Lots of guns. In an article for Foreign Affairs, Robert Muggah examines where these guns are coming from and what should be done about "Latin America's fatal gun addiction." He traces the guns back to the "hot wars" of the '70s, '80s and '90s --when the United States and the Soviet Union sent hundreds of thousands of weapons -- along with recent legal and illegal gun sales: the U.S. shipped more than $1.5 billion worth of small arms, light weapons, and ammunition between 2000 and 2014. Gun control is weak on both sending and receiving ends, and should be improved. Especially because in Latin America, roughly 75 percent of all homicides are the result of gunshot injuries -- a proportion that rises to 90 percent in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
- For an up-close look at one episode of gun violence, see Foreign Policy and ProPublica's narrative take on a 2012 gunfight in Guatemala, which targeted former immigration chief Enrique Degenhart. The investigative account -- accompanied by an animated depiction of the gun battle -- is based on a series of interviews with officials and experts, including Degenhart himself, and a review of law enforcement files and government documents.
- An Economist article analyzes the clash between Argentine president Mauricio Macri and Tupac Amaru, a social movement in the northern province of Jujuy that for nearly two decades has provided housing and social services to tens of thousands of poor, mostly indigenous citizens. Tensions soared after Macri took office in December and arrested the movement's leader, Milagro Sala, accusing her of creating fake housing projects and stealing millions of dollars from taxpayers. International human rights groups leapt to Sala's defense, but some poor Jujuy residents interviewed in the article said they'd recently lost faith in the leader because of the scandal, and because many of her projects have fallen into disrepair.