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Exit polls in the presidential race in Peru gives the lead to a Nationalist candidate in the mold of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. If elected he will continue Latin America's shift to the left. But he'll likely be in a run-off with one of two rivals next month. In a close race for second place are a right-of-center woman and a former president. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in the Peruvian capital, Lima. She sampled opinion in two districts, where voters have very different visions for their country.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO reporting:
Like many countries in Latin America, Peru is a place divided and possibly never more so than now. After steady economic growth, poverty still remains at over 50 percent. An export boom here has helped some but done very little for others who need it most. After sealing her ballot, Gabriela Gamarra drops it in the plastic ballot box in the school doubling as a polling center in the upscale neighbor of Nita Flores. It's a leafy suburb surrounded by shops and bars. Gamarra is 36 and has four children but she looks like she is in her 20's. She's got long glossy hair and pale skin and she's dressed in trendy jeans and platform shoes.
After voting she stands outside and affirms she backing Lourdes Flores, a lawyer and former Congresswoman who is the favorite of the business community and the elite of this country. She's also popular with people who identify her with traditional stereotypes of woman as honest and caring.
She says I like that she is a woman of character. I think women are more intuitive too. Gamarra says she dislikes Ollanta Humala, a populist who is promising to redistribute wealth by taxing international companies. She says everyone is very frightened. People don't want to invest now. Everything is paralyzed, she says.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Travel across town to the south of the city and the shantytown of El Salvador and the view is a lot different. People crowd around a woman holding a thick directory of polling stations. She gives directions to voters for a small fee. Around them are the dry and sandy streets of one of the poorest areas in the capital. Cinderblock houses sit next to an area that has been invaded by landless slum dwellers. They squat under reed mats hoisted up by polls.
Victor Lipam lives in this depressed area and he voted for Ollanta Humala because he sees him as a political outsider who could offer change. He says our population is tired. Nothing ever changes. The leaders always make promises but never do anything. He says I think someone new is good so he can help the population. Lipam says he and many others here feel cut off and frustrated. He says something will happen if he doesn't get into the second round. It's not fair that the traditional parties want to keep power. He says there has to be a change or there might be a revolution. Everyone in Peru is legally obligated to vote on election day. But it seems although voters live in the same country they inhibit different worlds. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Lima Peru.
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