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Peru: Alberto Fujimori's daughter is running for president

December 14, 2010 | 10:45 am

Keiko fujimori campaign fuerza2011

The daughter of Alberto Fujimori, the jailed former president of Peru, has launched a campaign to claim her dad's old job and is a strong contender in a wide field leading into elections next year.

As expected, Keiko Fujimori announced her candidacy earlier this month for elections scheduled in April. The 35-year-old former congresswoman organized her own political party, Fuerza 2011, in order to run. She led in preliminary polls this summer but has since slipped to third place in the most recent polling, behind a former mayor of Lima and a former president.

The three candidates are considered centrists in tight competition, with enthusiasm for the candidacy of radical ultranationalist Ollanta Humala, a foe of current President Alan Garcia, diminishing.

If elected, Fujimori would join a string of female leaders in Latin America. In recent years, women have been elected to presidencies in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica. She'd also represent at least a nostalgic return to the presidency of her father.

Alberto Fujimori is serving 25 years in prison after being tried and convicted on charges of corruption and human-rights abuses during his decade in office, in which Fujimori made gains against the Shining Path guerrilla group but was convicted of ordering massacres led by death squads. Yet Fujimori also is credited with stabilizing Peru's economy, a point on which Keiko Fujimori hopes to gain political traction during her campaign.

Peru's economy has grown consistently over the last decade, but indigenous ethnic groups have not benefited enough from that growth, Fujimori told BusinessWeek.

"Indigenous Peruvians feel like outsiders too," said Fujimori, referring to her own minority status as a Peruvian of Japanese descent. "They hear the country is growing a lot, but they don't see the benefits in their community."

Keiko Fujimori holds a business master's degree from Columbia University in New York and has already campaigned among Peruvian Americans in New Jersey. She reportedly visits her father in prison for political advice. She served as first lady of Peru when she was 19, after her parents' divorce. In 2008, she suggested she would consider pardoning her father if elected president.

So far, at least one globally prominent fellow Peruvian is not supporting her candidacy. Mario Vargas Llosa, the author awarded the Nobel Prize in literature this year, said on Monday that a Keiko Fujimori presidency would be "catastophe," alluding to the legacy of her father, whom he calls a "dictator."

Watch video in Spanish here. Vargas Llosa lost his bid for the presidency of Peru in 1990 to a virtual unknown at the time -- Alberto Fujimori.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori greets an indigenous woman while campaigning in Peru. Credit: