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Presidential Vote Presents Clear Choices for Peru

LIANE HANSEN, host:

There's a presidential election in Peru today. Polls show a very close race. There are 20 candidates, none of whom is likely to receive the 50 percent support needed to win the first round. A former military leader, with fiery rhetoric, leads the pack. He's vying with a pro-business woman, Lourdes Flores, and a former president whose tenure was marked by hyperinflation.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Peru's capitol, Lima.

Lourdes, describe the scene where you are.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO reporting:

Well, the polls opened at 8 a.m. local time, and all Peruvians age 18 to 70 are required by law to cast a ballot today. Now, I've just come back from a polling center. People are trickling in, just walking the streets though. People who are in their shops are all tuned to the radio or the TV. People here really don't know what's going to happen.

Polls have shown the top three candidates in a really tight race. And unless someone wins in the first round we're going to see a runoff between either two leftist candidates or a woman running against someone from the left. So it's going to be really interesting. And people here are pretty divided.

HANSEN: Is that why the election is getting so much attention from around the world?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. You know, Latin America is getting about a dozen elections this year and the trend across this region has been for leftist leaders to come out on top. This race has Ollanta Humala, a former military man in the mold of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. He's advocating the revision of gas and oil contracts. For example, slapping more taxes on international mining companies. And he wants to industrialize the production of coca leaves. It's a plan that's really resonating with the country's poor, but it has, as you can imagine, investors really worried.

His main rivals are, first, Lourdes Flores. She's a white, pro-business former congresswoman. And she's been branded the candidate of the elite by her opponents. If she wins, she'll be the second woman to become a leader in Latin America this year following Chile. And finally, there's Alan Garcia; he's jumped in the polls recently. He's a former president with a really bad economic record. He practically bankrupted Peru when he was president in the '80s. But he's back and doing well.

HANSEN: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in Lima, where presidential elections are being held throughout Peru today.

Lourdes, thanks a lot.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you.

HANSEN: There's a primer on the Peruvian elections at our website, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.
Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.