From his cramped shop on the outskirts of town, Humberto Fern__ndez can keep on eye on the green walls of the militar...
From his cramped shop on the outskirts of town, Humberto Fern__ndez can keep on eye on the green walls of the military complex where former President Alberto Fujimori is incarcerated.
With presidential elections this Sunday, Fern__ndez said he fears that if he votes for Fujimori_s daughter, Keiko Fujimori, she might set her father free. But he_s also worried that her rival, Ollanta Humala, may turn the country into another socialist experiment like Venezuela or Bolivia.
_I have no idea who to vote for because they both have problems,_ said Fern__ndez, 61. _And I don_t know who to believe._
Campaign trails are often riddled with half-truths and empty promises. But Peruvians are facing major trust issues as they head to the polls.
On one side is Humala, 47, who openly emulated Venezuelan President Hugo Ch__vez during his failed 2006 presidential bid. This time around, he has cast himself as a center-left nationalist and promised not to use any Ch__vez-style tricks to keep himself in power.
On the other side is Fujimori, 36. A right-wing populist, she once vowed to use the power of the presidency to pardon her father _ who is accused of human rights violations and corruption charges. Now, she says his fate lies solely with the courts.
Both candidates are wrapping up their campaigns Thursday with massive rallies in Lima, but the race is too close to call. An Ipsos Apoyo poll released Sunday shows Fujimori winning 50.5 percent of the vote to Humala_s 49.5 percent. One factor driving the tie: _The majority of voters don_t believe either of the candidates are sincere,_ wrote Ipsos Director Alfredo Torres.
According to the poll, just 39 percent think Humala is honest and 41 percent believe the same about Fujimori. Another 11 percent say they don_t know either way.
The trust gap isn_t surprising. During the first round election in April, Humala and Fujimori staked out opposite ends of the political spectrum as they battled nine other candidates. Since then, they_ve had to back off their positions as they_ve fought for moderates.
For Fujimori, that has meant downplaying her father_s influence _ even after she regularly evoked his presidency, plastered his face on some campaign posters and told El Comercio newspaper that she sought his advice in naming congressional candidates.
The elder Fujimori _ known as _El Chino_ for his Japanese ancestry _ was president from 1990 to 2000. He_s revered by many for putting an end to the Shining Path guerrillas that terrorized this nation for decades.
But he_s also a political liability. The latter part of his administration was besieged by corruption scandals and worse. He was accused of turning a blind eye to death squads and a public health campaign that led to the sterilization of thousands of poor women.
Keiko eventually assumed the role of first lady after Fujimori_s wife accused him of tolerating corruption and then claimed that his henchmen tortured her.
Humala has made much of the family connection, accusing Fujimori of inheriting the dark side of her father_s legacy _ and warning Peruvians that she would open the door for corruption.
During their final presidential debate on Sunday, Fujimori fought back.
_I am the candidate, not Alberto Fujimori,_ she said. _If you want to debate me, then face my ideas. If you want to debate Alberto Fujimori, you are welcome to see him in [jail]._
Those words ring hollow to some.
Many of the congressional candidates on Fujimori_s Fuerza 2011 ticket are old-guard followers of her fathers, or Fujimoristas, critics say. And Keiko_s second vice president, Jaime Yoshiyama, was a member of her father_s 1992 cabinet when he dissolved Congress in what is known as the _auto-coup._ Yoshiyama was eventually given four years probation for his role in that event.
_You look at her congressional list and her behavior and it_s almost certain what she stands for,_ said Cynthia McClintock, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University who has followed Peruvian politics since the 1970s. _How could she possibly claim she was independent from a Fujimorista regime?_
Humala has his own credibility issues.
When he first ran for the presidency in 2006, he campaigned in a red T-shirt, delivered fiery speeches and extolled the virtues of Ch__vez-style socialism.
Like Ch__vez, Humala first caught national attention in 2000 when he led a brief military uprising in the waning days of Fujimori_s regime. He was later pardoned by Congress.
During this campaign, Humala has cast himself as a soft-left centrist patterned on Brazil_s former President Luiz In__cio Lula da Silva. And he has modified his political platform three times in recent months as he has shed some of his more controversial ideas.
_Obviously, he has new talking points and a new suit and a new approach to the electorate,_ said Dennis Jett, U.S. Ambassador to Peru from 1996-1999 and a professor at Penn State University. _But is he sincere? That_s hard to judge._
While Humala has said the constitution needs to be changed to make it more inclusive, he has vowed not to extend his term in office as have Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Ch__vez in Venezuela.
_I will serve five years and not a minute more,_ Humala said during the debate.
Jett said there_s a chance that both candidates will keep the promises and personas they_ve honed during the final months of the campaign. But the Peruvian electorate is playing _Russian roulette,_ he said.
_If the revolver had six chambers, there would be bullets in two of them called the bad Fujimori and the bad Humala,_ he said. _The Peruvian people are going to pull the trigger on June 5th and we_ll see._
As he watched camouflaged guards wave traffic into the military compound this week, Fern__ndez noted that Humala has his own family issues.
Humala_s brother, Antauro, is serving a 25-year sentence for leading a military uprising in 2005 against former President Alejandro Toledo. Four policemen and two civilians died in that event.
If both presidential candidates were honest, they would leave their relatives in jail, Fern__ndez said.
_But then again, if you were president and your father or brother or sister was in jail wouldn_t you let them out?_ he asked. _I know I would._