Yehude Simon announces his run for President in 2011

Yehude Simon, president of the Lambayeque Region and one of the most prominent regional leaders, announced yesterday his intention to run in Peru’s presidential elections in 2011. His party will be registering with the national elections board in October, he said.

Simon, 61, said his campaign would be starting early because, “We provincials find it difficult, although not impossible, to conquer Lima” where a third of the country’s voters live. His party, the Peruvian Humanist Movement, will be filing its application with the National Elections Board, JNE, in October, with an initial focus on candidates nationwide for the regional and municipal elections in 2010.

The party’s national campaign platform is to focus on strengthening agriculture and agro-industry as the main engine driving the economy, without disregarding other industries such as mining, Simon said.

Simon’s announcement comes on the heels of an Apoyo opinion poll, announced Tuesday, that shows that Ollanta Humala and his nationalist party still lead in approval ratings but would not win a presidential election in a run-off against congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, President Alberto Fujimori’s daughter, or Luis Castañeda, Mayor of Lima.

The poll also shows an increase in the approval ratings of former President Alejandro Toledo and former candidate Lourdes Flores, and an all-time low in President Garcia’s rating. “This proves that people don’t want an anti-system solution, they want a market economy but they also want social justice,” Simon said.

“I agree (with President Garcia) that the anti-system options are not the alternative, but I do not believe that those who in some way are identified with the right are in a better position. I believe it is time for institutionalist and centrist options,” he said.

Simon believes the country urgently needs a center-left direction, new options, but distances himself from Humala, whom he described as “nationalist and chauvinist.”

“We’ve already been runners-up,” he told the daily La Republica. “Now it’s our turn to be ahead.” Supporters include San Borja mayor Alberto Tajada and the former vice-minister of health Oscar ugarte, and his party has taken up conversations again with former presidential candidate Susana Villarán.

A congressman in the 1980s for the now defunct Izquierda Unida, and later a founder of Patria Libre, Simon was accused in 1992 during President Alberto Fujimori’s government of justifying terrorism and was convicted to 20 years imprisonment. Amnesty International and local human rights groups worked in his defense and he was released after 8 ½ years with a pardon granted by transitional President Valentín Paniagua. Although not ideal, the pardon was the legal instrument used by the transitional government to obtain a speedy release for more than 300 prisoners who had been unjustly charged and sentenced by a military court between 1990 and 2000. Later, President Alejandro Toledo offered a public apology to Simon for the grave injustice.

In 2002, Simon was elected regional president for Lambayeque, once a stronghold of President Garcia’s Apra party, and was reelected in 2006.

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