LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian presidential hopeful Keiko Fujimori, a popular conservative lawmaker, said on Thursday voters will “choose the responsible option” in 2011 and refrain from electing a leftist.
Speaking at the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit, she also said that Peruvians will not tolerate “meddling” by Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez.
In the last presidential election, Peruvian ultranationalist Ollanta Humala cultivated ties with Chavez, who has tried to rally leaders in the region against what he calls U.S. imperialism.
Humala nearly won the 2006 race but is trailing a distant third in polls for the 2011 election. He has recently sought to distance himself from Chavez.
“Peruvians don’t like meddling by other leaders,” she said. “In the case of Peru, no candidate of Hugo Chavez is going to win.”
An early front-runner in the race, Keiko said a victory by Humala would be “catastrophic.” Humala says conservatives have unfairly stained him by conflating left-wing movements with Maoist Shining Path rebels who led a bloody war against the state in the 1980s and 1990s.
Keiko, 34, may face a potential conservative rival, Lima Mayor Luis Castaneda. They are nearly tied in opinion polls.
He enjoys strong support in the capital, but belongs to a small party, lacks nationwide name recognition, and has periodically faced allegations for cost overruns on public works projects.
“I’ve said that Castaneda should publicly respond to these allegations, otherwise he will suffer in the polls,” Keiko said.
Keiko’s campaign could be tainted by comments she has made that her jailed father, former President Alberto Fujimori, should be pardoned for human rights crimes dating from his government’s fight against the Shining Path.
She said her government would always welcome foreign investment, keep mainstream economic policies in place, and prevent social conflicts by spreading the wealth from an economic boom to the poor.
She blamed pro-investment President Alan Garcia for failing to prevent violence stemming from contentious oil and mining projects in the Amazon and remote Andean towns.
“Peru is growing, with stupendous numbers, but I feel like in the last few years there has been a missed opportunity,” she said. “I think the people are asking that the bounty be shared with the poor.”
The Fujimori movement believes in having clear regulatory rules, a transparent tax system and treating foreign investors the same as Peruvian ones, she said.
She added that she would like to see the economy, one of Latin America’s fastest growing, advance around 6 percent a year as swifter expansion could create inflationary risks.
Her father, convicted last year for his role in ordering a death squad to attack presumed insurgents, was credited with slaying inflation and stabilizing the economy before his government collapsed in corruption scandals.
Keiko said her administration would root out what remains of the rebels in jungle regions rife with cocaine trafficking.
Cocaine production is on the rise in Peru, the second largest producer of the drug after Colombia.
Before his government fell in 2000, Alberto Fujimori enjoyed enormous popularity for coupling policies favored by investors with a populist streak that emphasized building schools, hospitals and roads for the rural poor.
Keiko, who as a teenager was named first lady when her father separated from his wife, stopped short of declaring herself a candidate. But she said her goal is to become president.
“Obviously, at this time, it’s to reach the presidency, so that there are fewer poor, so that Peru is competitive and that it is a leader in the region.”
Reporting by Patricia Velez and Terry Wade; Editing by James Dalgleish and Tim Dobbyn