Peru and Mexico hold elections on Sunday with voters in Latin America angry at the economic devastation left by the pandemic and the mismanagement of the health crisis.
In Peru, the choice in a second round is between Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of an autocrat accused of corruption, and Pedro Castillo, a radical from a Marxist party almost unknown at the start of the year.
In Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, faces his biggest test of a six-year mid-term presidency in which his party and allies will attempt to retain a super-majority in the lower house of Congress. Fifteen state governors are also up for grabs, as well as local posts.
Read more: Mexico’s mid-term reviews are the biggest test yet for AMLO’s ambitious program
The campaign was violent even by Mexican standards, with dozens of candidates killed, kidnapped and threatened.
For Latin America as a whole, Sunday’s election could provide a glimpse of the direction in which other countries may be heading, as establishment parties lose support and foreigners gain ground with promises to spend more to fight increasing poverty.
Chile, Colombia, Brazil
Elsewhere in the region, a group of independents and leftists will rewrite Chile’s constitution and a Communist candidate is the front-runner in the polls ahead of the November elections.
Colombia, which has been rocked by violent street protests sparked by a doomed attempt to raise taxes, will elect a new government in the first half of 2022. Initial polls show a former left-wing guerrilla in the lead.
In Brazil, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is riding a wave of discontent with Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic to lead the polls as he plans to run next year.
Latin America has long been one of the most unequal regions in the world, but this gap has widened since the start of the pandemic and vaccination campaigns have started slowly. Lawmakers have exploited the anger to pass new wealth taxes and unlock tens of billions of dollars in private pension funds.
Governments are running larger deficits, seeing their credit ratings down and fighting rising inflation.
In Peru, investors fear decades of macroeconomic stability may be at stake. Fujimori promises to keep investor confidence, maintain public order and increase payments to families affected by Covid-19. Castillo wants to levy more taxes on multinational oil miners and drillers to spend more on education and health.
The best economy in Castillo advisePedro Francke said this week that the candidate would pay off the national debt, respect the autonomy of the central bank and do not consider nationalizing Peru’s mining sector. But many investors are skeptical. Fujimori ran his campaign by telling voters that Castillo would turn Peru into Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.
Read more: Elites tremble as Peruvian left expresses anger over rising inequalities
Peruvian markets have tilted sharply over the past two months, with a drop every time Castillo has won in the polls. The ground has weakened by 6% since the first round on April 11, the largest drop among major emerging markets over the period.
The Peruvian countryside was also marred by violence when 16 people were massacred in a remote village by what authorities described as an offshoot of the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path. Fujimori called for a hard line on the move, and his campaign was boosted by the event.
In addition to the political and financial drama, Peru recently acknowledged that the official Covid death toll was nearly three times the previous figure, meaning some 180,000 people have died from the disease in a country of 32 million.
In Mexico, Lopez Obrador seems to have escaped the wrath of voters over the health crisis that claimed 228,000 lives, the fourth highest total in the world, as well as the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Despite good personal ratings , however, voters consider his government to have performed poorly on both the economy and security.
READ MORE: Mexico’s midterms are biggest test yet for AMLO’s ambitious program
A good performance by Lopez Obrador could mean maintaining a super-majority in the lower house that could allow him to roll back the privatization of the energy sector.
Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time in Peru and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Mexico. Preliminary results are expected in both countries later Sunday evening.