The topic of drug trafficking has taken center stage as Peru's presidential runoff election nears, with frontrunner Keiko Fujimori's challenger seeking to stoke popular fears over her links to the drug trade and money laundering.
During a May 29 debate between presidential contenders Fujimori and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski -- the second and final debate ahead of June 5 elections -- Kuczynksi launched a series of attacks on Fujimori, saying Peru "runs the risk of becoming a narcostate" if she is elected, reported El País.
Kuczynski backed his accusation by pointing out 11 congressional representatives from Fujimori's party, the Popular Force (Fuerza Popular), are under investigation for money laundering, five in connection to drug trafficking.
"Drug trafficking, corruption, and crime are the three horsemen of the apocalypse," Kuczynski said. "This explains much of the corruption occurring now, which is why it's so important to not be linked to drug trafficking and have zero connections with money laundering."
During the debate, Kuczynski, who leads the Peruvians for Change party (Peruanos por el Kambio – PPK), asked Fujimori to explain the 2013 seizure of 91 kilos of cocaine in a warehouse linked to her brother Kenji in the port of Callao.
Also implicated in that case was Congressman Miguel Ángel Ramírez Huamán, who is the cousin of Congressman Joaquín Ramírez Gamarra. Gamarra was the secretary general of Fujimori's Popular Force Party, recently resigning after it was revealed the US Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating him for money laundering.
Fujimori denied any links to drug trafficking. (See CCTV-America's recap of the debate below)
Fujimori is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, Peru's former autocratic president condemned to 25 years in prison for corruption and running death squads during his presidency (1990-2000). Kuczynski has warned Fujimori's election would herald a return to the dictatorial practices of her father, while Fujimori has said Kuczynski, a former World Bank economist, would govern in the interest of the rich.
A recent poll of voters by Ipsos found Fujimori leads with 53 percent, while Kucyznski has 47 percent, reported Bloomberg. However, that does not include an estimated 13 percent of the electorate that is undecided.
InSight Crime Analysis
Fujimori, who won the first round of Peru's presidential election in April, sought to position herself as the tough-on-crime candidate during early campaigning, tapping into popular fears over growing crime and insecurity in the country.
SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles
At the heart of these concerns are the issue of drug trafficking and its corrupting influence on the political class. A 2015 survey found 70 percent of Peruvians believed the country is in danger of becoming a narcostate, something various high-level officials have warned of in the past.
While such warnings may be overblown, Kuzcynski appears to be attempting to inflate perceptions regarding nefarious links between drug traffickers and politicians. With a sizeable portion of Peru's electorate undecided ahead of election day, it remains to be seen whether or not his strategy pays off.