With just over two months to go before voting in Peru’s presidential elections on April 10, candidates are now devoting their attention to a social concern that has not been a front-and-center issue in national politics. The focus on same-sex marriage comes on the heels of disparaging remarks made on January 24 by Bishop Emeritus of Chimbote Luis Bambarén that were directed at the gay community. He also stated that discussion on “useless things like gay marriage” was a ploy by politicians to garner more votes.
Currently leading in polls, former president Alejandro Toledo of the Perú Posible party has made statements suggesting that he is open to civil unions and working “toward an inclusive society.” Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Alianza por el Gran Cambio and Keiko Fujimori of Fuerza 2011 have both declared themselves in favor of civil unions as well. According to recent CPI and Datum polls, Toledo is in the lead by only a few percentage points over Luis Castañeda of Solidaridad Nacional with Keiko Fujimori in third place. Similar statements have been made by Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros of Fuerza Social. Mr. Cuadros has declared that he is in favor of reforming Peru’s laws to allow for same-sex marriages. Other candidates have not gone as far. Among them, Catañeda has proposed inheritance benefits while calling changing current laws to permit same-sex unions “a crazy… idea.”
Political analysts in Peru note that the gay vote played a key role in the recent election of Susana Villarán as mayor of Lima and so will now play a similar role in the presidential election. According to Fernando Vivas of BBC Mundo, the increasing role of the gay vote in Peru has helped to raise the issue of gay rights above other topics like illiteracy and poverty eradication in the election debate.