Take a look at Peru, if you want a sense of what to expect from the set of options on offer by the US political scene. Recently, that Andean country held a presidential election, where the choice was between a neoliberal technocrat and a malevolent right-wing populist. In early June, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former World Bank economist educated in Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School beat Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former president and now-imprisoned Alberto Fujimori, by one-quarter of a percentage point, taking the presidency.
During his 10 years in office, 1990–2000, Fujimori served as a classic free-market strongman, using the country’s war on the Shining Path and law-and-order policies to implement a sweeping program of fiscal and physical torture: privatization; austerity; deregulation of mining; and suspension of constitutional rights. He beat the Shining Path, winning him populist support from marginalized sectors of the population, tired of being betrayed by elite politicians. That support has since transferred to his daughter, who ran a Trump-like anti-establishment campaign that came up short only by a handful of votes.
As Caroline Yezer writes in NACLA (recently revived—everyone should subscribe!), the rightful fear of Fujimori led the Peruvian left, after it had its candidate knocked out in a first round of voting, to put aside whatever concerns they had about PPK and vote the lesser evil:
During the elections, diverse sectors of anti-fujimoristas—students, artists, and human rights activists, as well as civil groups that were targeted by Fujimori’s regime (many of them located far from the Lima center)—organized protest marches that drew tens of thousands to the streets. Together, these groups declared “No to Keiko” in cities across the country. Among the crowds were citizens who were secretly sterilized against their will as part of a population control project targeting poor and indigenous women in the 1990s, as well as groups like Alfombra Roja (Red Carpet), an activist collective that does political performances in public spaces to provoke discussion about reproductive and other rights for women in Peru. These protesters networked through new Facebook groups dedicated to defeating Keiko’s candidacy. And in an unusual bipartisan move, Mendoza’s Frente Amplio party, which had received the early support of many of these groups, even ended up endorsing Kuczynski ahead of the country’s second-round vote, urging members to cast votes for the candidate in order to stop the return of fujimorismo. There is no doubt that Kuczynski would have lost the election without this timely alliance between the left-leaning Frente Amplio and other anti-fujimorista activists across the nation.
PPK won, by little more than 40,000 votes out of 18,000,000 cast. He hasn’t even taken office yet—he will on July 28—but all signs are that he has interpreted his hair’s-breadth victory as a mandate to abandon his tentative coalition with the left to push forward aggressive deregulated growth policies, particularly in Peru’s mining sector.