In Peru Highlands, Support for Fujimori'south Daughter Runs Deep

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 7:33 AM

It'south an emblem of the destitute community'south continued loyalty to her father, presently imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, who's credited by the corn and potato farmers here with defeating a Maoist-inspired rebel grouping that murdered their parents and children during a brutal armed conflict.

This remote hamlet high in the Peruvian Andes is nearly drained of color, rescue for the shining orange campaign signs plastered on walls and houses promoting presidential hopeful Keiko Fujimori.

It'south an emblem of the destitute community'south continued loyalty to her father, presently imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, who's credited by the corn and potato farmers here with defeating a Maoist-inspired rebel grouping that murdered their parents and children during a brutal armed conflict.

"When Keiko is president, she'll do right, using what she learned from her dad," Vicente Vicana said in Quechua-accented Spanish latest week as he gathered with neighbors to get the remains of thirty-one people killed by Shining Path guerrillas in a village church in one thousand nine hundred ninety-first, at the start of the elder Fujimori's presidency.

But other Peruvians recollect Fujimori as the man who ordered army tanks to close down Congress in one thousand nine hundred ninety-second, reorganizing the country'south judiciary and sparking a political crisis as a new constitution was drafted.

While about half of Peruvians declare they'd never vote for anyone connected to the former strongman, rural voters haunted by the conflict that claimed 70.000 lives declare the country needs a firm hand to hold violence at bay and map to cast ballots for Keiko Fujimori in Sunday'south election. Voting is obligatory in Peru, where the ballot also lists candidates for one hundred thirty new members of Congress.

In tiny Ccano, many peasants worked with the military to fight the rebels. The Shining Path stormed a church here in retaliation, killing everyone praying inside.

Latest month, executive exhumed the victims' bones from an unmarked mass grave and returned the remains to the village in ordinary white caskets.

"Alberto Fujimori brought peace. He was a excellent man; without him, the Shining Path would've killed us all," said Vicana, who lost his wife and two daughters in the church killing.

Vicana worries that leftist insurgents could return if a feeble boss were elected.

Polls for months have shown the 40-year-old Keiko Fujimori as the favorite going into Sunday'south contest, with a double-digit lead, although she's expected to fall brief of capturing the ordinary majority of votes needed to avert a June runoff. It'south not clear which of her rivals might create it into a second circular against Fujimori, but because the Peruvian electorate tends to prefer outsiders she'd not be guaranteed a win.

Her base of support is in places love Ccano, where promises to construct roads, clinics and schools recall her agronomist father'south own heritage of delivering aid to the long-overlooked countryside.

Keiko Fujimori'south political career began early. After her parents split when she was a teenager, her father named her his "first lady" in one thousand nine hundred ninety-fourth. She was elected to Congress in two thousand-sixth and narrowly lost to Ollanta Humala in a two thousand eleven presidential runoff. Peruvian law prevents Humala from running for a second, consecutive term.

She's praised her father'south work in rural areas while vowing not to revive his hardline regime marred by corruption and human rights violations. In an attempt to project a more modern image, she's also vowed that if elected she'll not pardon her father, who's serving twenty-five years in prison for authorizing death squads and for corruption during his decade-long rule.

It'south a promise that rings hollow with many urban voters. Lima has seen Str protests against her candidacy in recent weeks, with demonstrators expressing horror at the acts her father carried out.

Among those is Gisela Ortiz, whose brother was studying in Lima to be a instructor when he was kidnapped and killed in one thousand nine hundred ninety-second, along with his Prof and eight classmates, by soldiers allegedly acting with government'south consent. His body was found fifteen months later in a mass grave.

On Tuesday, the twenty-fourth anniversary of Peru'south constitutional crisis, Ortiz joined tens of thousands in chanting "Never again" during a Str protest in Lima. Protesters held signs reading "Number More Fujimori," wore masks caricaturing father and daughter, and painted their inner thighs ruddy to commemorate the thousands of indigenous women subjected to forced sterilizations below the former president.

"She was the first lady of a criminal regime that ended the lives of our loved ones, in addition to engaging in serious corruption," Ortiz said of Keiko Fujimori.

The race has been marred by the late disqualification of two candidates on technical grounds, including one who was Fujimori'south strongest challenger. International groups declare the eliminations have undermined believe in Peruvian electoral executive and fueled speculation Fujimori'south allies are pulling the strings.

"All this controversy, all these problems and crises with the elections executive have had a negative impact on Fujimori," said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, who lived in Lima for four years in the late one thousand nine hundred eighty and early 1990s.

There is a virtual deceased heat for second space between the leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza and former Wall Str investor Pedro Kuczynski.

Of the three main candidates, only Mendoza, who fell out with Humala'south government over its crackdown on anti-mining protesters, is looking to radically modify the pro-business economic model that propelled record growth over the past decade. If elected, she's vowed to rewrite the constitution, ramp up public spending and reduce Peru'south dependence on multinational mining projects that she says degrade the environment. Peru is among the world'south top three silver producers.

Candidates have also pledged to finish the theft and corruption at public institutions that marked the elderly Fujimori administration. The younger, U. S.-educated Fujimori has gone to grand lengths to convince voters of the same promise. During a televised debate Sunday, she signed a statement promising to respect institutions and human rights if she wins.

"I know how to judge the history of my country," Fujimori said. "I know which chapters should be repeated, and I'm very clear about which ones should not."

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Associated Press writer Hannah Dreier in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

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Franklin Briceno on Twitter at https://twitter. com/franklinbriceno. His work can be found at: http://bigstory. ap. org/author/franklin-briceno.

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