Peru: Mayoral Candidates, Twitter and an Intercepted Phone Call

During the evening of Thursday September 15 the word “Lourdes” became a Trending Topic on Twitter for a couple of hours, but unlike other times when Peruvian Twitter users tried to make a word or phrase a Trending Topic without success, this time they did it practically unintentionally. In fact, almost no one was proud of it and there were doubts about it. The blog Plan H explains [es]:

¿Un logro peruano? … Obviamente no somos los únicos que hemos conseguido que se convierta en trending topic, alguien màs en el algún lugar del mundo ha usado la palabra Lourdes … ¿Por que? Porque … tuvimos la suerte, por así decirlo, de usar esa palabra todos los limeños twitteros a la vez mientras alguien en otro lado también lo hacía.

A Peruvian achievement?… Obviously we can't be the only ones who made [Lourdes] a trending topic, someone else in another part of the world used the word Lourdes… Why? Because… we were lucky, so to speak, that every Twitter user from Lima used that word while someone else in another part of the world used it too.

But why where Twitter users from the capital Lima using the word “Lourdes” so much? The explanation lies in the realm of politics and in the context of the current campaign for mayor of Lima. Lourdes Flores is the candidate that up to a few days ago had the best chances to win the elections, but a recent poll [es] placed her second. These ups and downs in politics are not unusual, but what was unpredictable was the release during a TV show hosted by Jaime Baylyn [es] of an audio segment where Lourdes shows her anger about the poll's results using unguarded language. Sergio Fernández (@SerchAndGo) wonders [es] on Twitter:

lourdes flores: “metanse la alcaldia al poto” omg. sera un audio trucado?? sera ella quien lo dice??? LA CAGADA 11:29 PM Sep 15th vía TweetDeck

lourdes flores: “put the mayorship up your butt” omg. could it be a fake audio? is she the one saying that??? WOW 11:29 PM Sep 15th vía TweetDeck

Reactions were numerous and varied given such a phrase. Journalist Ronny Isla gathered what he considered were the best tweets on the subject. These two come from his selection [es], showing that Twitter users didn't limit themselves to repeating the phrase in a mocking tone, but that they tried to go beyond that and analyze the situation:

@angelpaezs Ahora cualquier delincuente cuelga un audio de una conversación “chuponeada” y cambia la agenda de los medios. Porca prensa. 11:31 PM Sep 15th vía web Retwitteado por 5 personas

@angelpaezs Now any criminal can upload the audio of an “intercepted” conversation and change the media's agenda. Dirty press. 11:31 PM Sep 15th via web Retweeted by 5 people

@orbisa35 El fondo del asunto es que hay una mano que está meciendo la cuna para el lado que quiere. Y hacia allá nos está empujando. 11:29 PM Sep 15th vía web Retwitteado por 3 personas

@orbisa35 The bottom line is that there is a hand that is rocking the cradle where it wants to. And it is pushing us. 11:29 PM Sep 15th via web Retweeted by 3 people

However, the legality of the intercepted call and the obscure interests that lie behind its disclosure to the public are not the only issues Peruvians are worried about. There is also the fact that during the intercepted conversation they mention the possibility of going to the polling agency to “move the numbers a little bit” in favor of Lourdes Flores. This casts shadows on the veracity of this and other polls, and although Director de Apoyo, the polling agency, has declared [es] that “There was no attempt to tamper with the [numbers],” the doubt persists.

During the 2000 presidential elections, the re-reelection of Alberto Fujimori, the power circle of Alberto Fujimori and the head of Peru's intelligence agency, Vladimiro Montesinos (what is now known as the “mafia fuji-montesinista,”), used questionable tactics to bring down candidates. Peruvians were reminded of these thanks to the release of the audio this week. Edson Baldeón, from the blog with the same name, asks a series of questions and offers his thoughts on the issue in the post “On the “butt-audio” by Lourdes Flores [es].” He wonders how the audio reached Bayly, what this shows about Lourdes’ personality, and he also comments on the explanation given [es] by Lourdes:

8. ¿Prácticas montesinistas?? Sin duda, pero el tema de que el asesor y amigo de Lourdes Flores, Xavier Barrón, proponga presionar al director de una encuestadora –Alfredo Torres- y que Lourdes acepte se vea involucrada en esto no es un tema menor. Seamos claros SON TAMBIÉN PRÁCTICAS MONTESINISTAS. Aquí la candidata del PPC tiene que dar las explicaciones del caso. No parece coherente condenar las prácticas montesinistas y a la vez practicarlas cuando les convengan.
10. ¿Qué fundamento se tiene cuando se acusa al fujimontesinismo de este audio??? En mi opinión, los antecedentes son suficientes para sospechar de esta gente y que lo hace para favorecer la candidatura de Keiko Fujimori.

8. “Montesinista” practices? Without a doubt, but the fact that the adviser and friend of Lourdes Flores, Xavier Barrón, proposes to pressure the director of the agency -Alfredo Torres- and that Lourdes accepts and is involved in it is not a minor issue. Let's be clear THESE ARE ALSO “MONTESINISTA” PRACTICES. Here the candidate of the PPC has to explain the case. It doesn't seem coherent to coordinate the “montesinista” practices and at the same time practice them when it is convenient.
10.  Under what rationale do we accuse “fugimontesinismo” of this audio??? In my opinion, the background is enough to be suspicious of these people and that they are doing this to favor the candidacy of Keiko Fujimori [Alberto Fujimori's daughter].

The release of something similar to this audio brought down Fujimori's third term in office: the vladivideos [es]. The “valdivideos” were a set of videos which show Vladimiro Montesinos bribing political, business and media leaders to cooperate with the government of Alberto Fujimori.  Jacqueline Fowks from the blog Notas desde Lenovo remembers this, but also wonders [es] about Bayly's motives in making the audio public:

1) Bayly está en un canal que tiene dueño y que permite y aprueba dichos contenidos.  2) La productora de El Francotirador trabajó con Carlos Raffo en los mitines de Chino, chino, chino! 3) Bayly trata con favoritismo la candidatura de Keiko Fujimori y 4) Ofreció al ex candidato Kouri tiempo que parecía ‘espacio político contratado’, fue una entrevista en la que le dio largo tiempo para contar chistes y mostrarse doliente por la muerte del padre.

1) Bayly works for a channel that has an owner and allows this content. 2) The producer of the show El Francotirador worked with [pro-Fujimori Congressman] Carlos Raffo in Chino, chino, chino! rallies [for Fujimori's re-election] 3) Bayly shows favoritism toward the candidacy of Keiko Fujimori 4) He offered former [pro-Fujimori] candidate [for mayor of Lima] Kouri air time that looked like “paid political space,” in an interview where he gave him plenty of time to tell jokes and show his pain for his father's death.

Finally in the blog Mate Pastor, Juan Sheput says that “We are doing worst than in the decade of the Fujimontesinismo [es]” and after mentioning several points to back his opinion, he reflects on the quality of Peruvian journalism and concludes that:

Se utiliza la máscara de la democracia para justificar una falsa libertad de prensa, con un falso periodismo encargado de demoler candidaturas que no son cómodas para los intereses que defienden. Se ha pasado de la geisha al sicario mediático, ambos cobran por sus favores, usan métodos distintos, pero igual se ponen al servicio de quien los convoca, por miles de verdes razones.

The mask of democracy is being used to justify a false freedom of the press, with false journalism in charge of demolishing candidatures that are not agreeable with the interests they defend. It has gone from geisha to hitman media, both charging money for their favors, using different methods, but they both serve those who call on them, for a thousand obscene reasons.

All this took place before an election debate between the 9 candidates for mayor of Lima. Although in the audio Lourdes threatened to quit, she did not do it. Instead, she participated in the debate, saying [es] the attacks on her candidacy will not break her and presenting her plans for the administration of Lima. Everything seems to indicate that the impasse is over, but whether she gets over her decrease in the polls is still to be seen. This video [es] shows the segment during Jaime Baylyn's show where the audio was released.

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