Peruvians Hope Humala Will Focus On The Poor

Over the weekend, there was a presidential runoff in Peru. The race was between a leftist military man and the daughter of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori. Ollanta Humala, 48, won Sunday after softening his radical image.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Peruvians woke up to a new president this morning. He's a left-leaning nationalist and former army officer named Ollanta Humala. He beat Keiko Fujimori in yesterday's elections. She's the daughter of disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori, who's in prison on corruption and human rights abuse convictions.

Despite clear differences between the two candidates, many Peruvians went to the polls feeling ambivalent about their options. But, there was consensus about the need to distribute the country's natural wealth more equally. As Annie Murphy reports, most Peruvians now expect Humala to make that his top priority.

(Soundbite of rushing water)

ANNIE MURPHY: The fishing village of Pucusana lies on the outskirts of Lima. It's tucked into a small cove hidden behind tall, rolling sand dunes. The water is choked with wooden skiffs, and fat grey pelicans float nearby.

Just after sunrise, the fishermen of Pucusana sit at plastic tables, eating hot bowls of fish soup. A few still hustle to finish up work. Many came to land specifically so that they could vote. George Reano voted for Ollanta Humala, but he's still skeptical about what comes next.

Mr. GEORGE REANO (Fisherman): (Through Translator): We'll keep on working just like we always have. Nothing is really going to change for us. I just hope our democracy functions, because up until now, it doesn't seem like it has.

MURPHY: As Reano tosses fish into buckets, Luisa Sernaque works alongside him. She supported candidate Keiko Fujimori. Sernaque has four children. She says she struggles to feed them. This despite a decade in which Peru's growth averaged 7 percent a year. The World Bank estimates that about half of Peruvians are still poor.

Ms. LUISA SERNAQUE (Fisherman): (Through Translator) I supported Keiko Fujimori because she was going to help the poor, and was going to provide free school lunches and better education.

MURPHY: Now that Ollanta Humala will be the next president, Sernaque hopes he'll take on similar projects.

The upscale Surco neighborhood of Lima makes a stark contrast to Pucusana. Well-dressed voters cast ballots at the landscaped campus of a private university. And where most people wore thick rubber boots on the fishing docks, here the click of high heels and loafers echoes down the hallways.

But votes in Surco are also split, and many people share the belief that the next president must do more to spread out the wealth. Victor Aturima is a sales executive for a company that exports Peruvian textiles. He voted for Ollanta Humala.

Mr. VICTOR ATURIMA (Sales executive): (Foreign language spoken)

MURPHY: Peru's eagerness to attract foreign investment has meant a flood of Chinese merchandise here, and Aturima says his business has suffered. He wants the government to have stronger rules for international investors.

Mr. ATURIMA: (Foreign language spoken)

MURPHY: He says that some people say there's wealth here, that the economy of this country is improving. But there are a lot of sectors that aren't seeing any improvements, he says. The last few governments haven't distributed the profits of Peru's natural resources. And he says political positions are determined by who a person is friends with, not because they're qualified for the job.

MR. ATURIMA: (Foreign language spoken)

MURPHY: Like many Peruvians, Victor Aturima says that, with Ollanta Humala, he wants nothing less than a fundamental change in the way Peru is being run.

For NPR News, I'm Annie Murphy in Lima, Peru.

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