Peru Candidates Spar Over Economic Policy One Week Before Vote

  • Veronica Mendoza proposes `deep changes' to economic system
  • Keiko Fujimori defended Peru's pro-business economic model

Peru’s presidential candidates sparred over the country’s free-market policies as an increase in support for the left-wing candidate Veronika Mendoza raised the possibility of significant changes to the system for the first time since the election campaign started.

During a televised debate Sunday between 10 presidential hopefuls, front-runner Keiko Fujimori pledged to uphold the pro-business policies enshrined in the 1993 constitution under the government of her father, Alberto Fujimori, and promised a boom in infrastructure spending if elected.

Mendoza, who was statistically tied in second place with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in opinion polls released this weekend, criticized Peru’s dependence on commodity exports and promised “deep changes” in economic policy, including curbs on the expansion of the mining industry. Kuczynski, a former finance minister, said he’d reactivate private investment and warned against failed economic experiments “whose results we can see in neighboring countries.”

Fujimori had 34 percent support in an Ipsos Peru poll published Sunday by Lima-based newspaper El Comercio. Kuczynski had 17 percent, Mendoza had 16 percent and Alfredo Barnechea had 8 percent. Ipsos interviewed 1,781 people from March 30 to April 1 and the margin of error was 2.3 percentage points. Companies won’t be able to publish new polls in the week running up to the April 10 vote.

Rising support for Mendoza, a Congresswoman from Cuzco popular among poor and rural voters, has unnerved investors. Dorian Garay, a New-York based money manager at NN Investment Partners North America LLC, said recent polls show a significant portion of the population would vote for a more radical change in the economic model.

“Investors will require a higher risk premium given uncertainties around the future of the political and economic landscape in the country,” Garay said by e-mail.

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