- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2000

LIMA, Peru Some Peruvians say they've had enough of President Alberto Fujimori, who is seeking a third term in Sunday's elections with a campaign that international observers have criticized as unfair and heavy-handed.
But others are leery of his main contender, Alejandro Toledo, who has said that if elected he would do away with social programs popular among the poor that provide free milk and food.
"I'm fed up," said Carmen Galdos, an English teacher in the comfortable Lima neighborhood of San Juan de Miraflores. "[Mr. Fujimori] has all of the power, he thinks he is God." She said she plans to vote for the rising opposition candidate, Mr. Toledo.
And Miss Galdos isn't alone. Mr. Toledo, a Stanford-trained economist, brought in a tiny 3 percent of the vote during the last presidential elections in 1995. But the latest polls suggest Mr. Toledo might give Mr. Fujimori a run for his money.
To win on April 9, a candidate must carry more than 50 percent of the vote. If not, Peruvian law calls for a runoff election between the two front-runners within 30 days of official results.
Late last month, the results of a nationwide poll by firm IMASEN SA, predicted Mr. Fujimori taking only 37 percent of the vote over Mr. Toledo's 30 percent. The poll also predicted that Mr. Toledo would edge out Mr. Fujimori in a runoff election.
But in a country ever suspicious of political chicanery, a sense of restraint has tempered the enthusiasm of many voters.
The results of a poll by the firm Analistas y Consultores of 450 random Lima residents late last month found that 55.8 percent of those polled believed there was a possibility of fraud in Sunday's polls.
Of those same respondents, 66.3 percent also said they thought there would be "a dirty war against Alejandro Toledo in the wake of his rise in the opinion polls."
Last week the tabloid press claimed Mr. Toledo is the father of an illegitimate teen-age daughter.
International observers from the Atlanta-based Carter Center and the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute have taken issue with opposition candidates' lack of access to the tabloid press.
In particular, observers criticized what they described as "biased news coverage, a distinct lack of coverage of issues that could affect voter choices, violation of press freedoms, problems with the legal framework and judicial remedies, lack of confidence in electoral institutions and use of state resources to gain electoral advantage" in Peru.
But in the non-tabloid press, Mr. Toledo continues to appear strong.
"From the Chino to the Cholo," laughed Luis Felipa Meza last Friday as he read aloud from one of the 15 newspapers on display at his kiosk near the Plaza de Armas in downtown Lima.
"All who pass by have something to say," added Mr. Meza. "They are all for Toledo."
Mr. Fujimori is nicknamed "the Chino" or the Chinese, although he is of Japanese ancestry, and Mr. Toledo is "the Cholo." Cholo, a term for someone of mixed Andean Indian and European descent, ranges in usage from an ethnic slur to a term of endearment.
Mr. Toledo has been pushing his heritage in a manner similar to what Mr. Fujimori did in his 1990 upset victory.
Mr. Fujimori beat the popular writer Mario Vargas Llosa in the 1990 election, in part by painting him as a member of the "pureblooded" European caste in Lima that has peered down on their country since Francisco Pizarro founded it as the South American capital of the Spanish colonial empire in 1535.
But Mr. Toledo, popular among Peruvians for his native bloodline, may have a dent in his armor yet as the election closes. Mr. Toledo has called for the elimination of handout social programs that provide free milk and food to poor Peruvians.
This opposition to a program popular among the poor and a campaign promise highlighted by his opponents could hurt him with voters.
Cesar Davila lives in a "pueblo joven" or shantytown outside of San Juan de Miraflores, which now has electricity and water and an abundance of the subsistence programs provided by the Fujimori government.
"In my neighborhood they like El Chino," Mr. Davila said.

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