Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (a.k.a. PPK) was in Tarapoto yesterday, March 29, 2011. I moseyed on down to the Plaza Suchiche, one of the stops on his tour through town, to check out the impressively experienced politician.
PPK and a Poor Turn Out in Suchiche Square
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has an impressive resume. Highlights include a degree in politics from Oxford University, a Master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton, regional economist for the World Bank, deputy director of the Peruvian Central Bank and Peru’s minister of economy and finance (see Wikipedia for more info). He also has dual nationality, U.S. and Peruvian.
So, how is he faring in the murky race to win Peru’s top job? Well, he’s doing okay, but the turn out in Tarapoto would suggest a distinct lack of local interest. According to Diario Voces, PPK got off to a bad start at Tarapoto’s airport. The reception committee consisted almost entirely of students from the Universidad César Vallejo, rather than gushingly grateful local supporters.
His “caravan” of honking trucks and mototaxis did a few rounds around town, passing through La Banda before stopping at the pretty little Plaza Suchiche. The square was far from busy, despite the customary free T-shirts and flimsy paper hats (according to the PPK website, however, “The sunny city of Tarapoto received Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the presidential candidate of the Alianza Por el Gran Cambio, with great fanfare and a large caravan of welcome”).
Anyway, I took up position near the front of the little stage, expecting to hear more of the same old meaningless nonsense that politicians feed to the public. What I heard was… well, exactly what I expected.
Peruvian Presidential Candidates and the Grand Plan
PPK fired off some cheap shots aimed at his “corrupt” rivals before rambling on about why he is going to win – minus any substantial details about how or why that should actually come about. He also seemed intent on emphasising his credentials as a charapa, a term used to refer to Peruvians from the jungle. Slightly strange considering he’s half American and was born in Lima…
During the 10 to 15 minute speech, PPK covered topics such as the drinking water supply, social benefits, economic development and saving the Amazon, all of which were completely devoid of any substance or anything that resembled a plan. Of course, everyone in Peru knows that he is the only man who can achieve all these lofty goals (according to PPK himself, anyway).
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and the PPKuys
All fairly standard stuff. He received a few decent cheers from the crowd, many of which were instigated by the travelling PPKuys – PPK’s loyal band of kids dressed up in cuy (guinea pig) costumes. After the Suchiche stop, the “caravan” moved off to Lamas. The local mototaxi drivers were all very happy, and apparently not just because PPK had mentioned them frequently in his speech. I was watching local TV today and one of the news analysts in the tiny, slightly wobbly studio said (if I understood correctly, which I think I did) that PPK’s people had paid each of the mototaxi drivers 30 soles to join the tour. Ah, the joys of politics…
Any Thoughts on the Peruvian Presidential Race?
I’m still not too sure where my allegiances lie, not that I can actually vote. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s appearance in Tarapoto failed to inspire, although I did discover that the little shop on the square sells fantastic chicha morada. Any thoughts on the Peruvian presidential race? I’d be interested to hear any opinions about the candidates or Peruvian politics in general. Oh, and if you want to see more of PPK, you can watch PPK in Tarapoto, Peru – Part 2 on my YouTube page.
Regarding Peruvian politics in general: Currently, Peru seems fairly democratic, but the country’s political institutions are still prettty fragile, and an economic downturn could easily result in a return to the traditional authoritarian political practices that have been an integral part of the country’s political traditions. And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if in a time of crises, the military once again steps in to “save the nation.”
Despite not giving PPK a glowing review in the above article, I still prefer him to most of the other candidates. That, in itself, is kind of worrying. I don’t see any great options among the current candidates – a couple of them seem to me like very bad news for the country. As you said, Peru does still have that air of fragility. It’s an interesting state of affairs…
Local resources should benefit local people, not multinational corporations. For example, the Yanacocha Gold mine in Cajamarca is the world’s most productive gold mine with over $1 billion in gold being extracted each year for many years. Yet the poverty rate in the local community is still the same, and it some cases even higher, than it was before the gold mine started operations. In addition, the local community has suffered serious illnesses and death from mercury spills. This is only one example out of hundreds accross Peru in terms of gold mines, silver mines, copper mines, oil wells, natural gas and so on. This is unfair and the formula for the disbursement of profits needs to change. Which presidential candidate is addressing this problem?
Very good point, and not one that I’ve seen championed as a primary concern by any of the candidates. Perhaps Ollanta Humala would be the most likely candidate to deal with this – but perhaps not for the right reasons. I’m not too keen on him, I have to admit.
Your comments regarding the Yanacocha mine in Cajamarca are 100% correct, and sadly reflect the negative impact of foreign mining operations on many of Peru’s citizens.
My novel, Empires of Gold, directly addresses this point and I’m sure that you’d enjoy reading it. In any event, I’m also sure that Peru’s Presidential candidates really hope to win, since the Presidency would afford them a huge financial bonanza with their control over the many business contracts at their disposal and the financial gains to be derived from them.
Yes, Tony, Humala is the only presidential candidate who has spoken about this issue. And thank you, Vincent. Where can I find your book?
On a related note, since 2004,I have been asssiting a school for handicapped children located in a small village by the name of Pedregal, about two hours west of Arequipa. A couple years ago, we went to Cerro Verde, the large copper mine near Arequipa, to ask for assistance for the school. At that time, the mine was operated by Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation from Phoenix, Arizona. The school receives no funding from the government of Peru and has about 25 severely handicapped children. Their families live in extreme poverty, in straw huts with earthen floors, no electricity, no running water, no sanitation system.
The monthly budget for the school is only about $500., which includes the salaries for three teachers. The annual profit at Cerro Verde Copper Mine is close to $1 billion. They refused to assist the school. Why? The community relations coordinator stated that the school was located outside of their area. If anyone was outside their area, it was Phelps Dodge.
Change is long overdue.
My book can be ordered via the internet. Type in name, Vincent Tufano, on the Google search engine and a bunch of sites carrying my book will pop up. I think that you will find the book fascinating since it focuses on the attempts by US corporation, in collusion with corrupt Peruvian politicians, to forcibly seize control over a valley in the Andes that contains a fortune in gold.
Thanks, Vincent! I ordered your book.
What happened to Pizango? He was a candidate for president, but he semms to have disappeared. Maybe it’s the media that are ignoring his campaign. What do you think?
Good point… To be honest, I’m not sure what happened to him. There was a big buzz when he first announced himself as a candidate, then he seemed to fade away.
Thanks,Raimundo, for ordering my book. I’m sure that you’ll find it to be excellent reading. Many of the facts in it are based in actual historical events, including a planned invasion of Peru from the United States that I discovered while researching US State Department documents in Washington DC. Don’t jump to any conclusions about who planned it. That’s suggested in the novel. in any event, I welcome your comments on the book.
Better the Keiko or Humala. Hey….how can I get a PPK Tshirt up here in the US even if the election is over?
I wanted PPK to make into the final two… shame.
As for the T-shirt, I guess eBay is probably your best option. I had a quick look, didn’t find anything, but something might appear.