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Peru's Keiko Fujimori Launches Presidential Bid, Blasts Economy

  • Reuters

FILE - Presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori reads a statement to the press in Lima, Peru, June 5, 2011.

FILE - Presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori reads a statement to the press in Lima, Peru, June 5, 2011.

Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Peru's jailed ex-leader Alberto Fujimori, launched her second bid for the presidency on Friday, saying she would tap the state's rainy-day fund to kick-start the country's slow-growing economy.

Fujimori, the only woman in a field packed with political old-timers, said she would not hesitate to issue more sovereign debt internationally while also dipping into the $10 billion emergency fund to finance infrastructure projects.

"We have one of the smallest levels of debt in the world," Fujimori, 40, said at a gathering of business executives in the southern coastal city of Paracas. "When you have a moment of emergency ... you must take drastic and important steps."

The economy of Peru, a major global gold and copper producer, expanded at an average annual rate of more than 6 percent between 2003 and 2013. But growth slowed sharply to 2.4 percent in 2014 as global mineral prices slumped, and is now expected to be 2.8 percent for this year after yet another downward revision last month.

Fujimori, who heads the right-wing populist party Fuerza Popular, has a comfortable lead in opinion polls of likely presidential contenders. In a November Ipsos survey she drew twice as much support as her closest rival, 77-year-old economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

But she has yet to show signs that she can appeal to more than about one-third of voters, far from the 50 percent needed to secure a victory in the election's first round, scheduled for April 10.

Fujimori's challenge will be to distance herself from her father's regime to attract middle ground voters without alienating his supporters, who credit him with ending a bloody leftist uprising and fixing a broken economy.

On Friday, she criticized President Ollanta Humala, who narrowly beat her in a second-round vote in 2011 and is barred from running for re-election, for governing the country on "automatic pilot," and said his two predecessors did not do much more to build on her father's economic policies.

"We have been governed by the status quo," Fujimori said.

Fujimori vowed to introduce "structural" economic reforms to boost competitiveness, but offered few details. She said she would create a new cabinet office to prevent social conflicts that have derailed major mining projects, even though one already exists.

The 2016 presidential race is dominated by familiar faces, including two former presidents and a former prime minister. All but one of the top five candidates have run for president at least twice before.

Fujimori is the eldest daughter of Alberto Fujimori, who ushered in sweeping privatizations and is now jailed for corruption and human rights abuses committed during his 1990-2000 term.

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