A policy dispute in Peru’s presidential runoff election turned racially insensitive this week when the campaign advisor for candidate Pedro Pablo Kuczynski called opposing candidate Keiko Fujimori — a Japanese-Peruvian — a “chinawoman” and said her criticism of his policies was because “her eyes have gotten too wrinkly and she can’t read very well.”
Alfredo Thorne, Kuczynski’s policy adviser and the author of the Government Plan for his party, Peruvians for Change (PPK), was asked about criticisms from Fujimori herself. She alleges that the PPK plan would eliminate the Compensation for Time Served (CTS) social plan, an analog to unemployment benefits given in the United States that provides a temporary salary to employees laid off while they find new work. The PPK proposes creating an unemployment insurance plan that would require users to buy in. Fujimori has contended that such a plan in Peru would necessarily mean the end of the CTS program.
Thorne, speaking to Peru’s Radio Capital, denied the accusation. “I think the chinawoman’s eyes have gotten too wrinkly and she can’t read well anymore, but [our plan] calls for ‘creating an unemployment insurance plan for populations recently reincorporated into the work force without affecting the CTS of current workers,'” he said. “It is that clear.”
Fujimori’s party, Popular Force, immediately condemned the statement. Party Congressman Pedro Spadaro called the remark “a mockery” of Fujimori. “We will not accept Mr. Thorne or Mr. Kuczynski hurling these adjectives at our presidential candidate,” he added in a statement. “The Peruvian people will respect not only a lady, but a woman who represents all the walks of life of Peruvians. Aquel que no tiene de inga tiene de mandinga,” he added, using a common phrase essentially meaning, “we are all racially mixed.”
Fujimori herself issued a statement condemning the remark. “I reject Mr. Thorne’s comments,” Fujimori said, adding, “I want it to be very clear that Peru is a country of different races and bloodlines. There are Natives, Asians, and mixed people. Discriminatory positions are lamentable.”
Thorne has apologized for his remark, tweeting, “there was no intention of offending Keiko Fujimori, I apologize.”
The comment surfaced in the middle of a heated runoff vote, following Fujimori’s decisive victory in the first round of Peru’s elections in April. Fujimori received almost double the votes Kuczynski did, though not the 50 percent necessary to avoid a second round of voting. Peruvians will return to the polls on June 5.
In mid-April, Kuczynski boasted a four-point lead over Fujimori; by the end of the month, a poll showed Fujimori leading by two percentage points. Kuczynski and Fujimori, both considered right-wing candidates, are in a statistical tie according to the most recent national polls. A GFK survey published Tuesday found Kuczynski leading with 50.1 percent of the vote to Fujimori’s 49.9 percent.
Fujimori was once Peru’s First Lady during the tenure of her father, Alberto Fujimori, beloved for eradicating the Maoist terror group Shining Path from Peru. Kuczynski has made her background a common font for attacks, telling an audience this week that he “had worked al my life and studied with my money, unlike others.”
Kuczynski is an Oxford and Princeton graduate who boasts a long career at the World Bank, the son of wealthy European immigrants.