December 5, 2015 / 1:06 AM / 3 years ago

Peru's Keiko Fujimori launches new presidential bid

PARACAS, Peru (Reuters) - Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Peru’s jailed former leader Alberto Fujimori, launched her second bid for the presidency on Friday, saying she would tap the government’s rainy day fund to help spur an economic recovery.

Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Peru's former President Alberto Fujimori, arrives to listen to the judge's verdict on her father's sentence in prison, in Lima October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

Fujimori, the only woman in a field packed with political old-timers, said she would not hesitate to issue new debt if needed after dipping into the $10 billion emergency fund to finance infrastructure projects.

“We have one of the smallest levels of debt in the world,” Fujimori, 40, told a business leaders forum in the coastal city Paracas. “When you have a moment of emergency ... you must take drastic and important steps.”

The economy of Peru, a major gold and copper producer, expanded at an average annual rate of 6.2 percent between 2003 and 2013.

But growth slowed sharply to 2.4 percent in 2014 on weak metal prices and an expected recovery this year has stalled.

Fujimori and four other presidential contenders have vowed to boost public investments, which have fallen toward the end of President Ollanta Humala’s government. Humala cannot hold two consecutive terms and leaves office July 28.

The 2016 race is dominated by familiar faces, including two former presidents. All but one of the candidates, businessman and former mayor Cesar Acuna who is climbing in opinion polls, have run for the top job before.

“Peruvians want someone new, someone who doesn’t live off of politics,” Acuna said, taking a jab at career politician Fujimori.

But Fujimori, who heads the right-wing populist party Fuerza Popular, enjoyed a comfortable lead even before launching her new bid for the presidency.

In a November Ipsos survey she drew twice as much support as her closest rival, 77-year-old former prime minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, whom many Peruvians consider too old for the job.

Fujimori has yet to show signs that she can appeal to more than about one-third of voters, however, far from the 50 percent needed to secure a victory in the first-round April 10.

Fujimori’s challenge will be to distance herself from her father’s regime to attract middle ground voters without alienating loyalists, who credit him with ending a leftist uprising and fixing the economy.

Alberto Fujimori, now in prison for corruption and human rights abuses, ushered in sweeping privatizations during his 1990-2000 term.

Fujimori said her father’s three successors had enjoyed the fruits of his economic reforms without building on them.

Editing by Richard Lough and Steve Orlofsky

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