Little discussed in foreign policy circles in Washington, Peru is headed to its most crucial election since emerging from dictatorship more than a decade ago. On June 5, 2011, almost twenty million voters will go to the polls to decide between Colonel Ollanta Humala, former coup plotter turned democrat; and Keiko Fujimori, the 35 year old daughter of former dictator Alberto Fujimori.
Much of the attention regionally has focused on the democratic credentials of Col. Humala. In 2006 Humala also ran for president on a platform of radical change with the open backing of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. That time he was narrowly defeated by current President Alan Garcia. This time, a much more polished and sophisticated Humala is back. His message however, while more nuanced, remains the same. A careful read of his 197 page plan of government, titled "The Great Transformation," displays words like "neo-liberalism", "pluri-culturalism", "nationalization of strategic activities" and "re-negotiating free trade." All of these are buzz words for radical change. Humala also speaks openly about constitutional reform, another important component of the setup of President Chavez's model of authoritarianism. He has also stated he will re-negotiate Peru's energy and mining contracts.
Chavez's support for Humala is famous throughout Latin America. During the 2006 presidential elections Peru even recalled its ambassador in Caracas after Chavez came out in support of Humala. This time Chavez is being more careful. However, according to a Peruvian intelligence report from 2009, Chavez's infiltration of Peru has continued and even increased. According to the report, Chavez has funded the setup of 80 "ALBA Friendship Houses", has hosted fifteen Peruvian mayors to form a "Bolivarian Network", and has provided funding and support through the Bolivarian Continental Movement (BCM) - a front the FARC - as well as the Bolivarian Congress of the People - the BCM's political wing. This support has included Humala's political party.