CIA PUSHES Opus Dei 'Feminist' as Next Peru President

Tony Abdo aabdo at
Sat Mar 10 07:10:07 MST 2001

It appears that both 'Holy' (Alejando) Toledo and the tag team of
Fujimori and Montesinos have been dumped as Washington favorites in
Peru.        The new favorite appears to be Lourdes Flores.

It's easy to see that the Mexican formula of Green/ PAN via Vicente Fox,
has been slightly altered into the Opus Dei formula of the Peruvian
conservative 'feminism' of Lourdes Flores.

These New Age elections are getting to be something else!

Tony Abdo
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 8, 2001; Page A17

JAUJA, Peru -- Thousands of residents poured into the streets of this
poor Andean city to shower multicolored good luck confetti on the
campaign truck of Lourdes Flores Nano, who has suddenly found herself
within striking distance of becoming Peru's first female president.
One awe-struck young man raced up the cobblestone streets to ask for an
autograph on a sketch he had made of Flores, a portly lawyer dubbed
"Auntie" by her supporters. Flores signed the sketch, then leaned back
and grinned. "What Peru needs now," she whispered, "is a woman -- and
even the men know it."

Five weeks before presidential elections in a country where machismo has
always helped dictate who wears the presidential sash, Flores, 41, has
made a dramatic surge in opinion polls. Backed by about 8 percent of
voters in January, she has jumped to over 26 percent for the April 8
election, putting her second behind Alejandro Toledo, whose support
stands at about 33 percent. And Flores -- who wears a short, no-nonsense
haircut, shuns makeup and likes practical shoes -- owes the leap in
popularity, at least in part, to her gender.

Since Alberto Fujimori fled to Japan in November to escape charges of
corruption, thousands of blackmail videotapes made by his notorious
intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, have been released as part of
a probe into Fujimori's 10-year rule. Stunned Peruvians have watched a
variety of politicians from all parties, Supreme Court justices, cabinet
ministers and titans of industry and media accept bulging envelopes of
cash to support Fujimori. Those caught on tape have one thing in common:
They are, almost exclusively, men.

Flores' last-minute surge -- her popularity more than doubled as the
videos poured out in February -- illustrates one way women are perceived
in Latin America, particularly in Peru. Although they remain far from
the social and economic equals of men, there is a widespread belief that
women are less corruptible. For example, in an effort to root out
corruption among Lima's traffic police in 1998, authorities replaced
many of the men with women in the belief that they would be less likely
to take bribes.

"We're sick of all these dirty, corrupt men!" said Rebecca Saenz, a
farmer from the outskirts of Jauja.

She and a group of women cloaked Flores' shoulders with an embroidered
black shawl used in a traditional local dance in which a woman gets the
better of her man. The shawl was given to Flores as a sort of talisman
to prevent her, like this city, from becoming an also-ran in Peru's
history books. Five hundred years ago, Jauja lost the title of Peruvian
capital to the coastal city of Lima, 100 miles to the west.

"What we need is a clean, honest, God-fearing woman," Saenz said.
"Lourdes is going to save us from the corruption of all these pathetic
and weak-minded men!"

Although still in second place, Flores is climbing in the polls as the
elections approach. The winner needs more than half the vote in the
first round for outright victory. In a nation where victorious
candidates often have emerged only in the final months before a vote,
many political analysts believe Flores is poised to at least force a
runoff in May between herself and Toledo, who challenged Fujimori in
flawed presidential elections last year and seeks to become the first
Amerindian president of modern Peru.

Even if she does not win the presidency, Flores may emerge as the
leading opposition voice by becoming president of the second-largest
bloc in Congress. In the process, Flores, a conservative two-term
congresswoman and a longtime critic of Fujimori, has already inflamed
passions because she marks a departure from the stereotype of female
politicians in Latin America.

Unlike the vast majority of Latin America's past and present female
presidents -- Argentina's Isabel Peron, Nicaragua's Violeta Chamorro or
Panama's Mireya Moscoso, whose husbands were involved in politics and
then died -- Flores is single and has ridden no man's coattails to

But at the same time, sociologists say, she is being embraced in Peru in
part because of a lingering stereotype in largely Catholic Latin
America: that women are either good, unstained incorruptibles -- the
"Virgin Mary syndrome," some sociologists call it -- or lascivious,
dishonest "bad girls." For a large segment of the population, women are
saints or sinners, with little room between.

Flores, a religious woman who has never been married and who has close
links to the conservative Opus Dei Catholic organization, is going for
the saint. In fact, many Peruvians openly wonder whether she remains a
virgin, a question Flores has never felt obliged to answer when asked by

"But she doesn't have to answer," said Mariano Querol, a psychologist in
Lima. "The fact that some people see her as virginal has given her an
incorruptible aura that resonates with this corruption-weary society."

Flores seems to work that image deliberately. On her campaign tour in
Jauja, she allowed news crews to follow her into the magnificent
colonial-era Catholic church. There, in front of a gilded shrine of the
Virgin Mary cloaked in glorious powder-blue robes, she knelt with a
serene face to offer a prayer as delighted photographers snapped
pictures and TV crews rolled their tapes.

Flores was raised in middle-class Lima society and showed her strong
will at an early age, according to her father, Cesar Flores. "She
prevented me from ever becoming a chauvinist," he recalled. "I remember
one day when she was 5, she came home from school upset because she
couldn't beat the other girls in jacks. She spent every minute
practicing, and from then on, she always won. Lourdes is a winner, but
it's because she is the most driven, determined person I have ever

She did well as a basketball player in a Peruvian women's league and
identifies with and respects female figures as politically diverse as
New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former British prime minister
Margaret Thatcher and Marta Suplicy, the Brazilian left-wing sexologist
who is mayor of Sao Paulo.
But, she says, "I am not a feminist. I do not think of myself as a
feminist, and I will never be a feminist. I don't like the sound of the
word. It sounds like a woman who is against men."

Those words make women such as Maria Esther Mogollon, a founder of
Peru's Broad Women's Movement, cringe. "She is against a woman's right
to choose and she is against the idea of feminism as an equalizer in
society," Mogollon said. "This is someone whose view of the role of
women is overly defined by her religious beliefs."

Flores says such criticism is unfair, arguing that she has a track
record on women's rights and has pushed legislation through Congress
that gives women the right to require men to take DNA tests to determine
paternity of their children.

Flores' conservatism has also drawn criticism from another flank. During
the Fujimori years, and even after his flight to Japan, among his most
staunch supporters have been a group of congresswomen who now are
largely his last defenders. Although these congresswomen are attacked by
news commentators as "corrupt witches," they also satisfy the public's
belief that a woman should always be faithful to her man. And Flores
nods at their allegiance.

"I completely disagree with their politics and find their morals
offensive, but you have to give them this: They are not cowards," she
said. "I challenge you to find one male politician in all Peru who is
now willing to admit that he supported Fujimori. These women may have
made the wrong choice, but at least they have the guts to be honest
about it."

Flores complains that her competitors, Toledo and the candidate now in
third place, former president Alan Garcia, are trying to link her with
Fujimori through the left-wing press because her politics, like
Fujimori's, are conservative. "They are growing desperate because they
did not think they would face a challenger like me," she said. "They did
not think they would be up against a woman.

"Well," she added, "they're going to find that I'm tougher to beat than
any man."

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