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Julio Guzman, the Establishment and the Presidential Race in Peru

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Chris Komisarjevsky
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It was at a recent small gathering in New York City where Julio Guzman -- the upstart and unexpected candidate for the presidency of Peru -- came to share the mounting enthusiasm for the plan he had first outlined for the Peruvian people at the launch of his election campaign six months earlier.
And it has been a rollercoaster ride since then.
When we look closely at the race in Peru, it is fair to ask: Are we seeing in Mr. Guzman a variance on a theme that's taking place elsewhere whenever a new breed of candidate challenges the political establishment?
In Canada, the surprise victory of Justin Trudeau to become the new Prime Minister comes to mind. And in the U.S., the anti-establishment pitches and drama from candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders fit the pattern.
In a phone call interview on Monday afternoon from Lima, Mr. Guzman pointed to three essential elements of his campaign and the base of his support:

First, Peru has been governed by the same faces and same surnames for the past 30 years. We're tired and we're looking for something new. Something that looks to the future, not to the past. We are not looking for political ideologies but what works. That is why we're putting education at the heart our policies.
Second, I believe that young people are the present of Peru. They represent the change everyone is craving. They want to reach their dreams based on hard work and meritocracy, not where they were born, who they know, their gender or the color of their skin. We will invest in the minds and talents of everyone, not just the few.
And, third, my government will empower women. In Peru, our culture of 'machismo' has not only kept women behind but also our progress as a country. This can no longer continue. Look at the thriving economies around the world and the essential role played by women all over. Women are critical to strong economies and, as I have said before, the transformation of Peruvian society will start from the 'womb of the mother.'

For Mr. Guzman and the presidential election in Peru, each of the most recent opinion polls puts him second only to Keiko Fujimori, the leading candidate and daughter of disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori. As of this past Sunday night's poll, Ms. Fujimori's lead over Mr. Guzman was under the 20 percentage point range, making for what some observers see as a virtual tie.
Mr. Guzman is running as a member of the "Todos por el Peru" (TPP) party, a small political group whose name means "Everyone for Peru." However, Peru's electoral board has jumped in and determined that, for what appears to be administrative reasons, Mr. Guzman cannot run for the Presidency. Apparently, this has to with his party not following its own internal guidelines.
Mr. Guzman describes himself as "the same as most Peruvians, but one who is tired of complaining and is determined to do something to change his country." He has never run for political office before but his never-ending enthusiasm has been buoyed by his rapid rise in the polls -- an especially dramatic climb since early December -- and expanding support. He is seen as a clear pro-democracy candidate.
A former economist at the Inter-American Development Bank, it seems quite natural that his platform couples reality with his passion. He knows that nothing can happen without a strong economy and quality education. These he says are "the two most critical issues in the future of the country."
Mr. Guzman likes to say that, with Peru's historic focus on its natural resources, "Peruvians have invested so much in 'mines' in the past that it is now the time to invest in 'minds.'"
So, where to from here for this non-establishment candidate?
The danger is that there won't even be a Candidate Guzman without a strong legal challenge to the earlier decision by the electoral board. Mr. Guzman has already filed his legal appeal before the National Jury of Elections.
But, if the future is in what the electorate says, Monday night's Pro-Democracy Rally in Lima should make a loud statement. According to early reports, there were thousands of Peruvians traveling from various regions to be there.
Since launching his campaign, Mr. Guzman has been on a roll.
After taking the podium at Monday's rally, it might well signal the beginning of real change.

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