Mercedes Araoz selected as APRA’s 2011 presidential candidate

President Alan Garcia’s ruling Aprista party has selected former economy and finance minister Mercedes Araoz as its candidate for Peru’s 2011 presidential elections, daily El Comercio reported.

The announcement came on Tuesday at the party’s headquarters, where Araoz was presented as the candidate by some of APRA’s leaders, including former Cabinet chiefs Jorge del Castillo and Javier Velasquez.

Araoz, 49, is an economist with degrees from Lima’s University of the Pacific and the University of Miami. She is currently an economic adviser to President Garcia.

Prior to that position she was Peru’s Minister of Economy and Finance. She has also served as the Minister of Production as well as the Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism.

While she has served in numerous positions in President Garcia’s administration, she has not considered herself a member of  APRA.

“It is an honor that you have though of me with this generosity,” Araoz said on Tuesday. “I have thought of it a lot, but after seeing your commitment and unanimous support, I feel more committed to APRA. I am very proud to represent APRA and I am sure that we can achieve an excellent victory for the country.”

Araoz is to be ratified as the presidential candidate in two weeks during APRA’s national convention, Radioprogramas reported the party’s sub secretary general Javier Moran as saying. At that time, the party will also determine its vice presidential candidates.

The announcement has received mix reviews, from both outside and within APRA.

Opposition Congressman Carlos Raffo, a former advisor to jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, called Araoz a capable professional with a lot of character, while lawmaker Daniel Abugattas of Ollanta Humala’s Nationalist Party said she represented “neoliberalism or neo-colonialism.”

Meanwhile, APRA’s national secretary for international relations, Carlos Roca, said her candidacy could fail if she does not receive support from the party’s base.

“It is not a question of saying we are going to name the candidate, if [the candidate] does not have support or backing from the base, this candidacy could fail,” Roca told Ideele Radio.

“I think that we should call a general session to evaluate the proposal and make a definitive decision. The party can’t make a decision like this without consulting those who are going to be the operators of the electoral campaign and if they are not enthused with the proposal approved by the party’s political office, they could run the risk that the militants won’t want to participate in the vote and the campaign.”

Peru’s presidential elections are to be held in April 2011.

Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former President Fujimori, and Lima’s former mayor Luis Castañeda have been leading the polls. Former president Alejandro Toledo and the Nationalist Party’s Ollanta Humala are also possible candidates.

President Alan Garcia is barred by term limits from seeking re-election to a consecutive term.

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