The Nobel prize-winning Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa has called on his compatriots to support Keiko Fujimori’s bid to become president, despite once running against her now jailed and disgraced father, Alberto, and spending years savaging the dynasty for its corrosive effects on Peru and its politics.
Vargas Llosa said the rightwing Fujimori – who faces Pedro Castillo, a far-left but socially conservative union leader and teacher in June’s presidential runoff – was “the lesser of two evils”. Castillo won 19.1% of the vote in last week’s first round, while Fujimori took 13.4%.
Writing in Spain’s El País newspaper, the novelist said Castillo would undermine democracy, ruin Peru’s economy and leave the country “with all the characteristics of a communist society”.
Faced with such an “abyss”, Vargas Llosa added, “Peruvians should vote for Keiko Fujimori because she represents the lesser of two evils and, if she’s in power, there are more possibilities of saving our democracy”.
But the writer, who was beaten by the then little-known Alberto Fujimori in Peru’s 1990 election, said Keiko Fujimori would have to promise to respect freedom of expression, obey presidential term limits, and rule out a pardon for her father’s former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.
Keiko Fujimori has already said that, if elected, she intends to pardon her father, whose 10 years in office were mired in widespread corruption. She has twice lost presidential elections in 2011 and 2016.
Alberto Fujimori is serving a 25-year prison sentence for authorising death squads and presiding over rampant corruption and vote-rigging. Though loathed by many because of his authoritarianism and disdain for the law, some Peruvians remain loyal to Fujimori because of the role his government played in ending the bloody Shining Path insurgency and resuscitating the country’s failing economy.
Until now, Vargas Llosa had been a vehement critic of the Fujimoris. In 2010, he said Keiko Fujimori would be “a catastrophe for the country”, adding: “If the daughter of the dictator who has been jailed for being a criminal and a thief could possibly become the president of Peru, I will be one of the Peruvians who will strive to try to stop that happening using every possible legal means.”
The author, who has chronicled the uses and abuses of power in a career spanning seven decades, won the Nobel prize for literature in 2010. The committee said he had been recognised “for his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat”.
At the time, Vargas Llosa, who has Spanish citizenship and lives in Madrid, said he had always considered himself too liberal to stand a chance of winning the Nobel prize.