Saturday, October 2, 2010

Election Day Hijinks

October 3rd is Election Day all across Peru for the offices of mayor and regional president. It will be a busy day because voting in Peru is mandatory. Not voting means a substantial fine when attempting a transaction at a bank or other governmental office. The ‘system’ knows who did not vote, and will flag the individual’s record. There are other interesting sidelights.

Would you buy a used car from this man? This is Roberto ‘Beto’ Torres, Chiclayo’s present and probably future mayor. The photo was taken as he was denying allegations of spending public money on his campaign commercials. Surely people understand that those videos were public service announcements about public works happening in Chiclayo. The fact that his reelection banners just happened to appear in them was purely coincidental.

His banners are everywhere, including at civic improvement sites…and recently there are lots of civic improvement sites. Moto and taxi drivers know how to navigate what passes for roads in Chiclayo without causing too much discomfort to their passengers. In the last 30 days things have gotten much easier for them. Almost overnight city crews were everywhere tearing up and replacing roads and sidewalks; always in the shadow of a Beto Torres banner proclaiming his tireless efforts to improve Chiclayo, all the while doing it with ‘clean hands’. People aren’t fooled. They know this is all about getting reelected. In 4 years come election time there will be another rash of civic improvements. It’s all part of the game.

People also know that television stations will be airing interviews of indignant passengers at bus stations all across Peru complaining about price gouging. See…you have to vote in the city listed on your National Identification Card, which means lots of Peruvians who haven’t bothered to change their address legally need to return to their home cities. The bus lines know this, so tickets normally costing 30 soles now sell for 90. That’s what happened during the last election, is happening now and will happen again in 4 years when television stations will again be airing interviews of indignant passengers at bus stations.

What’s also part of the election game is that the sale of alcohol is prohibited for 72 hours prior to election. Go ahead…try to get a Pisco sour or a glass of beer at a restaurant or bar. Ain’t gonna happen. And your favorite store will have their liquor section closed off. Just for the hell of it during the last election I tried to talk the bartender at the Gran Hotel’s Fantasy Club lounge into serving me a drink. He politely declined. It was the same at our local neighborhood store when I asked for a bottle of wine. The fines and potential loss of license are too severe to risk it. Al Capone, Chicago’s prohibition era bootlegger would have loved this situation.

So…if you like a glass of wine in the evening while watching “public service announcements” and coverage of irate bus passengers as I do, and you’ve forgotten to stock up as I did, there’s always Inca Cola. Cheers!



  1. I cannot wait until elections are over.

    The endless campaign songs (every must candidate have their own cumbia with ridiculous lyrics: one rhymed corrupcion and delincuencia, eek), the half-finished construction projects (the current mayor of Chulucanas's strategy seems to be that he wants to start a bunch of projects so he will get re-elected to finish the meanwhile, every other street is torn up), and the sinverguenzas who think they still belong in politics, when they really belong behind bars (case in point: candidate for mayor in Piura caught in corruption scandal in Fujimori era).

    I do like the free concerts in the plaza sponsored by each political party as the campaign closing event. Ah, Peru!

  2. Just found the site, will watch and keep a eye on all the posting. Very informative. Enjoy the Chili

  3. You should have visited beautiful district of Patapo last weekend mate. They would surely sell you some ´yonque´ under the counter to get an alcohol fix, plus there was a free entertainment in form of shootings, bomb throwings, and finally setting the whole electoral office on fire. I just arrived in Peru on Manday, and first thing I saw in tv news, Patapo will be the only district in the whole country to hold another elections, because all the voting paperwork was burnt. This is surely much more fun than electing a mayor of Milwakee ;-)