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Elections in Peru: Keiko Fujimori: ‘I will accept the decision of the electoral board’ | USA

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Keiko Fujimori in her apartment in Lima. In the foreground, a family portrait with her father, Peru’s last autocrat Alberto Fujimori.
Keiko Fujimori in her apartment in Lima. In the foreground, a family portrait with her father, Peru’s last autocrat Alberto Fujimori.Audrey Cordova Rampant

The building’s elevator is directly connected to the living room of the apartment. Lima’s smog-filled skies can be seen through a large window. Waiting in the room, dressed in a white chiffon blouse and a dark, sleeveless vest with flower-patterned jeans, is Keiko Fujimori, the candidate of the party Fuerza Popular (Popular Force) for president of Peru. During the presidential election campaign, the politician has displayed one of her greatest strengths, that of bringing together the country’s elites, who in turn have backed her to the hilt to govern Peru for the next five years. But she has also let some of her weaknesses and contradictions show.

Fujimori, 46, who was briefly jailed after being accused of money laundering and criminal association in connection to the wide-ranging Odebrecht political bribery scandal, had promised to stamp out corruption. On an altar flanked by child-sized statues of Catholic figures, rests the bible she read when she was in prison. “Whatever the outcome, I will respect the will of the people,” she said before the country went to the polls. Two weeks later, Fujimori has not acknowledged the narrow victory of her rival in the presidential run-off, the leftist leader of the Perú Libre (Free Peru) party, Pedro Castillo. Fujimori insists that if she is in power, the stability of Peru’s faltering democracy would be shored up. In a wooden frame is a black and white photograph of her as a child with her mother, her two younger brothers and a man in a suit wearing horn-rimmed glasses: her father, Alberto Fujimori, Peru’s last autocrat.

The decision of Fujimori and her party to seek the annulment of 200,000 votes cast in some of the country’s poorest areas, where Castillo won huge support, has delayed the proclamation of a winner in the presidential contest by two weeks. According to the official count, Castillo won by a little over 40,000 votes. The wait has further strained social divisions after a high-intensity campaign that has divided the country. Fujimori and her allies say they are convinced that fraudulent activity altered the final result, despite the pertinent institutions and international observers stating they have seen nothing to suggest that is the case. Fujimori has the finest law firms in Lima behind her, and these have been filing various challenges. Up to now, all of them have been rejected. Associations formed by ex-military personnel have called for a coup to be staged to prevent Castillo from coming to power. For this sector of the political right, the leftist politician represents a fierce and outdated mode of communism.

It remains to be seen if Fujimori will eventually keep her word and accept the outcome of the vote, or if she will seek another path. “I will accept the results that the National Elections Jury decides,” she says, in reference to the country’s electoral board, seated on a three-piece couch. However, she adds, perhaps not enough is being done to find out “the truth.” Her election team had three days after the day of the vote, June 6, to file the nullification appeals, but the majority of them were submitted after that deadline. That has provoked a legal debate – a common occurrence in Peru – as to whether these should now be considered. “We ask the Jury not to offer excuses about the matter of deadlines, what we ask is that it seeks to discover the truth. If there were a willingness to find out the truth…” Fujimori continues.

— Do you believe there is no willingness?

— I’m not going to say anything until I have heard the final decision.

— On June 6 you said: “From here on, I can say that whatever the outcome I will respect the will of the people, as should be the case.”

— Of course. And I stand by that.

— Whatever the outcome?

— Yes.

Fujimori’s face darkens when the opinions of some of the country’s leading experts are read out to her. Alfredo Torres, president of pollster Ipsos Perú: “We have not found any indication of systemic fraud in the database.” The Ombudsman office: “We categorically affirm that no attempt has been made to tamper with the will of the people.” A report by the Organization of American States (OAS): “The mission has not detected serious irregularities.”

Fujimori, who is running in her third consecutive presidential election, says that she is not questioning the system as a whole, but 800 polling stations in which she claims that irregularities have been detected, such as several members of the same family being in charge of a voting station, which is prohibited by law. Her party has published the names and surnames of the citizens in question. These individuals have denied the accusations and said that the issue is easily explained by a common fact in Peru’s rural areas: many people share the same surname.

Fujimori by an altar in her apartment in Lima.
Fujimori by an altar in her apartment in Lima.Audrey Cordova Rampant

During the campaign, Fujimori allied herself with traditional enemies of her party such as Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa and his family, who publicly backed her candidacy. Rural primary school teacher Castillo, with his rhetoric against the elites and the free market – which he has now moderated and in some cases rectified – represented for them a leap into the void. Both candidates, in the face of doubts among voters as to how they would position themselves once installed in the presidential seat, made democratic promises and concessions. Fujimori asked for forgiveness from ministers she had ejected using her majority in Congress during the last legislature. It appeared that her attitude toward this new political process would be different. However, is suggesting her opponent has been engaged in fraudulent activity not adding to the instability she sought to address?

— On the contrary, I have acknowledged that if I made a mistake in the last elections it was that I didn’t ask for a recount [Fujimori lost by a similar margin against former prime minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and has always believed fraud was involved]. Today I am asking that they review certain polling stations. This kind of analysis will result in all Peruvians better accepting the outcome. With the next five years in mind, I think this will be much better and will strengthen democracy.

In a press conference, Fujimori appeared alongside Miguel Torres, one of her spokespeople. The prosecutor in charge of her case asked that Fujimori be returned to prison for violating the terms of her probation. In theory, she is not allowed contact with Torres, who has also been implicated. On June 21, there will be a hearing to study the prosecutor’s petition. “I have always placed myself at the disposition of the justice system and that’s why I have been in prison three times. The reasoning behind this fourth request for remand is absurd. We have been working for many months [with Torres] and this request was filed on the same day as we presented the annulment appeals,” she says. Torres is at the back of the room as she speaks, distracted by his cellphone.

Fujimori received a lot of votes. A good number of these came from the opposition to Castillo (neither candidate won more than 30% of the vote in the first round), from urban areas and the coast. But her candidacy was met with utter rejection in rural areas and in the south of the country, where historical anti-Fujimori sentiment is practically a religion.

“It could also be that in some cases that is also in reference to me. But as in any democracy, [I will try to win them over] with a lot of tolerance and respect, beyond their position and their ideology, so that they feel they are part of a state, a state that has failed over deaths from Covid,” she says. By population ratio, Peru has the most deaths in the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 180,000 fatalities.

Fujimori has not changed some of her more radical stances during her party’s journey toward a more central political ground in a bid to attract voters who may feel threatened by Castillo.

— Our position in defense of life and the family is very strong.

— And by that you mean…

— We are against abortion and gay marriage.

Fujimori has though shifted her opinion over the issue of a pardon for her father. She was installed as First Lady of Peru (1994-2000) after the separation of her parents, when she was just 18 years old. In 2011, she said she would support pardoning handing her father, who is serving a 25-year-sentence for crimes again humanity and corruption. In 2016, she said she would not, that she respected the sentence handed to Alberto Fujimori for two massacres that took place during his 1990-2000 rule as president. Now, she has once again said she would grant him a pardon. Does she maintain that position? “Yes.”

Vargas Llosa categorically asked that Vladimiro Montesinos, Alberto Fujimori’s right-hand man who is in jail on similar charges, not be granted the same treatment.

Now that the presidential campaign is over, and with it with the machinery of propaganda, does Fujimori still feel that Castillo represents a danger to democracy? “I think that his ideals and his proposals are damaging to our democracy; he has very radical viewpoints.”

The rattling of sabers has returned to Peru, a country that until the 1980s had had more military governments than civilian ones. Reservist officers have issued proclamations about a coup, which the Ministry of Defense has spoken out against. Even so, the smell of brimstone lingers in the air. “I believe that we should all remain calm,” says Fujimori. “I have nothing to do with them and I think that at this time what is best is for me to maintain my cautious approach.”

In the last three years, Fujimori has competed in two Ironman triathlons (a 2.4-mile swim, 112 miles on a bicycle and a 26-mile marathon). She brings that steely will to her political career.

— Is this the last time you will run in the presidential elections?

— I’m not going to answer that question. They will say that this lady has thrown in the towel. No, we will wait for the results. When we have them, I’ll call you and I’ll answer that question.

English version by Rob Train.

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Teenager saves baby from shipwreck during Mediterranean crossing | Global development

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The actions of a teenager from Togo have been lauded after video footage was published of him supporting a baby he saved from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea last week in which at least 30 people died.

The 17-year-old, whose identity has not been disclosed, swam to save the child, whom he was holding above water when a rescue team arrived, in footage published by the French media group Brut.

“I am a good swimmer and I went to help people,” the teenager said, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), whose Geo Barents rescue ship arrived at the site of the shipwreck.

A teenager holds a baby above water after a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea
The identity of the 17-year-old, who was keeping the baby out of the sea as he clung to the wreckage, has not been disclosed. Photograph: Michael Bunel/Le Pictorium Agency/Zuma/Rex

Michael Bunel, a French photojournalist who was onboard the rescue ship, told Brut that when they arrived they could hear the teenager shouting: “There’s a baby. There’s a baby.”

The crew threw the teenager a flotation device to pull him and another survivor in, and gave urgent treatment to the four-month-old baby, who at first was not breathing. The baby and her mother were evacuated to Malta, according to MSF.

The rubber dinghy was detected only after nine days at sea, said Safa Mselhi, a spokesperson for the UN’s International Organization for Migration. A pregnant woman who could not be resuscitated died onboard the rescue ship.

The Geo Barents rescued 71 people from the shipwreck, some of them with fuel burns, caused when skin comes into contact with petrol that has mixed with seawater.

The survivors on the Geo Barents had to wait almost five days to get to land, only being allowed to disembark at the Italian town of Taranto on Saturday. The ship had been carrying the body of the pregnant woman during this time.

Juan Matías Gil, MSF’s search and rescue representative, said: “This traumatic event is a deadly consequence of the growing inaction and disengagement of European and other border states, including Italy and Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea.

“Tragedies at sea continue to cost thousands of lives, and these people are being lost on Europe’s doorstep, with absolute silence and indifference from EU states.”

Sea rescue charities have repeatedly accused the European Union of failing to save refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean by requesting that Libya’s so-called coastguard intercept any boats attempting the crossing, despite allegations of abuse in Libya’s militia-run detention centres.

According to MSF, at least 8,500 people died or went missing, and 95,000 were returned to Libya, in attempting crossings of the Mediterranean between 2017 and 2021.

On Wednesday morning 306 people disembarked in Sicily from SOS Méditerranée’s rescue ship Ocean Viking. Some of the survivors had been onboard for 12 days. The ship carried out eight rescues in less than two weeks – the most recent, on Monday, of 15 people who had been adrift for two days.



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Environment: Colombia and the new Latin American left | Opinion

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After the victory of president-elect Gustavo Petro and vice-president-elect Francia Márquez in Colombia, many have concluded that we are entering a new leftist wave in Latin America. But simply announcing the rise of a new left is more confusing than it is illuminating. New in what sense? In comparison to what? What distinguishes it from others? Who are its members? Without answers to these questions, Latin America’s political moment cannot be understood, and one risks stating the obvious (that the left is new because it is recent) or randomly grouping together very different movements and governments.

What is new about the new left?” is a question that surfaces from time to time. The last “new left” (which, of course, it is no longer) was the pink wave at the beginning of the century. As I wrote at the time in a book entitled, predictably, The New Latin American Left, it was the wave led by Lula’s Brazil and swelled by other governments that would follow very different paths, from the progressive democracy of Tabaré Vásquez and Pepe Mujica in Uruguay to the authoritarian disaster of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, as well as governments as diverse as those of the Kirchners in Argentina, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

I think that what is new and distinctive of the progressivism that won this year in Colombia and Chile is precisely what all those left-wing governments lacked: an environmental agenda and economic policies that understand that fossil fuels and extractive industries are the past. And that there is no future, neither for the left nor for anyone else, on an uninhabitable planet. Despite the profound differences among the leftist governments of the last two decades, all of them shared with right-wing governments the enthusiastic promotion of extractive industries, from oil and coal to mining and agribusiness.

In Brazil, Lula and Dilma Rousseff ended up fulfilling the military dictatorship’s dreams of opening up the Amazon to monumental hydroelectric dams like Belo Monte, to feed energy to mining projects throughout the region. In Bolivia, former vice-president Alvaro García Linera went so far as to publish a defense of extractivism in the Amazon. Rafael Correa was even more explicit: he referred to Indigenous peoples and environmentalists who opposed his policies of aggressive expansion of oil and mining in Ecuador as the “infantile left.” The aberrant case of Venezuela belongs to a different category: “21st century socialism” not only maintained oil dependence, but used it to finance what ended up being a “dictatorship of the 21st century,” as Provea, the well-known Venezuelan NGO, has called it.

The extractivism of the left was due, in part, to reasons of convenience. The pink wave overlapped with a period of record prices for commodities. The resulting hard currency financed exemplary social policies in several countries, such as the Zero Hunger and Bolsa Familia programs in Brazil. In part, however, it was due to sheer conviction. Even today, important sectors of the left, such as the López Obrador government in Mexico, tend to see oil and mining exploitation as indisputable pillars of national development and sovereignty—and environmentalism as a naïve movement, at best, or as an instrument of the rich countries, at worst.

But much has changed in the last twenty years. Today we are living the reality of climate change and know that we have less than a decade left for governments to take urgent action to avoid the most catastrophic scenarios of global warming and the irreversible destruction of vital ecosystems such as the Amazon. We understand that human health and the health of the planet depend on national policies and international agreements to protect biodiversity in at least 30% of the Earth by 2030. Finally, we know that Latin America would suffer disproportionately from the effects of environmental collapse, such as forced migrations, economic and food crises, and social conflicts.

If it is to deserve the label “new,” the left in power would have to rise to this new planetary moment. And follow the momentum of the progressive movements that embody it and that were essential to the electoral outcome in Colombia, as shown by the iconic figure of vice-president-elect Francia Márquez: the Black and Indigenous movements, the urban environmentalism of young people, ecofeminism, the small farmers’ movements.

At a time when the global right seems to bet on the destruction of the planet (Bolsonaro, Modi, Putin, etc.), the left should distinguish itself not only by its social agenda but also by its environmental agenda. Abandoning extractivism and moving towards clean economies is not irresponsible, as critics suggest, but indispensable. This seems to be the view of the environmental progressivism that is emerging in Colombia and Chile. Petro and Márquez’s proposals contemplate a gradual and fair transition to reduce the historic dependence on oil and coal, among other measures. Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s government promised a “just socio-ecological transition” and has just shut down the Ventanas copper smelter, an emblem of mining pollution.

Thus, the first leftist government in Colombia may have regional and global repercussions. An initial sign of this turn was the first conversation between Petro and President Biden, which included a possible alliance on climate change and Amazon conservation. If accompanied by a shift to the left in Brazil (where it remains to be seen whether a possible Lula government would abandon the extractivist tradition) and adequate funding from wealthy countries that have polluted the most, the proposal of Latin American environmental progressivism could contribute not only to the consolidation of a new left, but also to the preservation of life on the planet.

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More than 5,000 people are missing in Balochistan. I want my father back | Sammi Deen Baloch

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I started protesting after my father, Dr Deen Mohammed Baloch, was abducted from his hospital in Khuzdar, Balochistan, on 28 June 2009. I became an activist, raising my voice against the heinous crime of enforced disappearances: more than 5,000 people are missing in Balochistan.

In the 13 years since my father was taken, I have spent most of my time on roads, in front of journalists’ press clubs across Pakistan – with a photograph in my hand, asking a simple question: “Where is my father? What is his crime?”

Enforced disappearances in my home province is a decades-old issue, from when the Balochistan nationalist movement began in the early 2000s.

In 2014, I, along with other relatives of missing people, marched 2,000km (1,200 miles) over 116 days from Quetta to the capital, Islamabad. As a 15-year-old, with my swollen feet, I thought going to the capital would make those in power have some mercy. I was wrong.

My mother does not know whether she is a widow or still married. We deserve to know the truth – whether my father is alive or dead.

If my father is alive, he should be released or brought to a court of law. If he has been killed, we should be given proof.

I have spent 13 years in this struggle to know the truth but I have never been as humiliated, harassed, beaten and verbally abused as I was at our recent peaceful protest in Karachi.

One police man grasped my hand forcefully and another held me by the neck. I felt as if my bones were going to be fractured.

My sister, Mehlab Baloch, was slapped three times. Bakhtawar, a fellow activist who was filming, had her phone snatched by the police. She was dragged along the road. This was all caught on camera and the video widely shared.

Police mocked us after throwing us in their van. We were warned not to protest or else they would “drag and beat us” more.

The police told me: “You think you are a leader and are at the forefront. We will teach you a lesson.”

Our headscarves were removed. The officers threatened us by saying to each other: “Once their shalwars [trousers] are removed, then they will stop protesting.”

Protesters march holding placards. One says: ‘Murder of Karima Baloch is the continuation of Baloch genocide’
A protest at the murder of Karima Baloch, a leading Pakistani human rights activist living in exile in Canada who was found dead in 2020. Photograph: Rahat Dar/EPA

They called us disgraced women, accusing us of protesting to win fame and to appear in the media.

We were released at about 2am.

The state and its security agencies have responded to the separatist movement with a “kill and dump” policy and are forcefully disappearing students, lawyers, doctors, political activists and their sympathisers.

Last year, I, along with other representatives of missing persons’ families, met the former prime minister Imran Khan, who was a critical voice on the issue before coming to power. Khan now seems to be a toothless tiger.

His human rights minister, Shireen Mazari, introduced a bill against enforced disappearances. The irony was that the bill itself went missing.

Now, after losing power, Khan’s party is once again denouncing enforced disappearances.

In the same way, Maryam Nawaz, [vice-president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, then the main opposition party], visited us last year and criticised Imran Khan for his false promises. She assured us that action would be taken if her party came to power.

Nawaz’s uncle, Shehbaz Nawaz, is prime minister now but they seem helpless before the security agencies.

Women’s organisations in Pakistan do not raise their voices for Baloch women and the violence against us. This is saddening.

We come from respectable families and we are not happy to be demonstrating on the streets. Our men have disappeared – that’s why Baloch women, from a conservative province, are coming out of their homes to protest.

I would rather focus on my career like other young women. But how can one if your father, husband or brother is missing?

In April, there was a female suicide bomber, Shari Baloch. Since then the state has cracked down against activists, students and women, saying that we are all terrorists.

We have nothing to do with such violent activities. We don’t support violence.

I am not demanding anything unlawful – enforced disappearance is unlawful. I just want my father back.

Am I asking for something illegal? The state may portray us as terrorists after Shari’s attack but we are not. We are peaceful protesters. We suffer every moment of every day.

Sammi Deen Baloch is general secretary of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a group that formed alongside the separatist movement in Pakistan

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