Peru: populist pursues presidency from prison

Left-populist presidential candidate Gregorio Santos Guerrero insists he will run in Peru's April election—despite remaining behind bars at Ancón I prison outside Lima. Santos, affectionately known as "Goyo," was already re-elected to the presidency of the northern region of Cajamarca from prison in 2014, and officially remains the region's executive. He says his "preventative detention" under pending corruption charges is political retaliation for his advocacy for the peasants and poor of Cajamarca—especially his support of the region's popular struggle against the US-backed Conga gold mine mega-project, now stalled due to widespread protests. In a statement this month, he said he would not be detained "if the law were applied equally," and scoffed at the notion that he was a flight risk while officially serving as a regional president. While Santos has been imprisoned, Cajamarca's acting executive has been his vice president, Porfirio Medina. (, Feb. 12; Andina, Feb. 10; La Republica, Feb. 1)

Santos was officially named in December as the candidate of Direct Democracy, a coalition that brings together three leftist parties: the Popular Bloc, Unite for Another Democracy, and Santos' own Social Affirmation Movement (MAS). Cajamarca congressional member Jorge Rimarachín announced Santos' candidacy for the coalition, and said "he should be freed" to carry out his campaign. He added that "there does not exist a democratic system" in Peru. (Perú21, Dec. 20)

Santos' candidacy was confirmed in January by the Special Electoral Jury—a development met with dismay by Peru's political establishment. Other candidates confirmed in the decision are former two-time president Alan García of the Peruvian Aprista Party, Nano Guerra García of the National Solidarity Party, Alfredo Barnechea of Popular Action, and Daniel Urresti of the ruling Nationalist Party. (El Comercio, Jan. 20)

The "outsider" candidacy of Julio Guzmán may now be revoked following charges that he failed to fulfill a series of requirements when registering his party, All for Peru. Also thrown into question is the candidacy of Cesar Acuña, mayor of Trujillo, following accusations that his Alliance for Progress plagiarized large portions of its Plan of Government from a World Bank study.

But the front-runner remains Keiko Fujimori of the right-wing Popular Force. The daughter of ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori, she was narrowly defeated in the 2011 election. She remains an unapologetic supporter of her disgraced and imprisoned father, who has been convicted on multiple charges of corruption and human rights abses. (Reuters, Feb. 4; Peru21, Jan. 23)

  1. Field narrows in Peru presidential race

    Peru's National Election Jury on March 9 nullified the candidacies of Julio Guzmán and César Acuña for irregularities. This leaves the three front-runners as the hard-right Keiko Fujimori, center-right Alan García, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peruanos Por el Kambio (PPK), also of the  center-right. (InfoBae, March 9; Peru21, March 8)

    In fourth place is Verónika Mendoza of the leftist Frente Amplio. (Peru Reports, March 7) Mendoza broke from the ruling Nationalist Party and its Gana Perú coalition over its repression of protests against oil and mineral development projects.