Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Elections!

(from Sunday, November 19, 2006)

Today is Election Day in Peru. Local offices all over the country are up for election today, including alcaldes (mayors), regidores (roughly city council members), and governors of departments (equivalent to states). Voting is mandatory in Peru. If you don’t vote you have to pay a fine, which is not huge, but is certainly big enough to get you out to the polls if you can possibly get there. A few of our language teachers who live in other parts of the country, except for when they are on contract to teach us in Lima, have decided that they will just have to swallow the fine because they would spend more in time and money getting to their home cities than they will lose to the fine. It is a little sad to see that they won’t be able to express their choice, but after the fiasco we went through trying to vote by mail on a long California ballot, I can’t fault them. Our host mom and dad left early this morning to go vote in the little town in the mountains that they still consider home, even though they live here in Santa Eulalia. Their daughter votes here and we noticed that she got dressed in her best to go to the polls.

Today and yesterday were probably the soberest days in Peru all year. The Ley Seca went into effect on Friday. On Election Day and the day before, sale and consumption of liquor of any kind is illegal, nationwide. Take your democratic rights seriously! Don’t drink and vote! It is also very quiet compared to the last couple of weeks. Campaign fever has been pretty wild recently, with convoys of vans stuffed with partisans rolling through the streets, waving banners and cheering for their candidates. One rally we encountered in Lambayeque announced itself from blocks away with the theme music to Star Wars blasting out of huge speakers rolling along on trucks. Posters decorate every surface, and fireworks have habitually boomed throughout the day and night. All of that ended, by law, on Friday. Political rallies and gatherings are prohibited until after the polls close. Having just gone through an electoral cycle in the U.S., it is fun to compare and contrast how it works here and there. Considering the hard times that this country has suffered through in the past, it is very good to see their democracy out in full force.

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