"Who are you voting for this coming election?" I asked Felix in my very broken Spanish. Felix doesn't speak any English and I was trying to communicate with him using what little of his language I know.
"I'm voting for Fujimori for president," Felix replied. "The current leader only thinks of the businessmen, and not the poor people like us. Life is getting harder."
Felix owns the quaint guesthouse we stayed at in the village of Llachon at the Capachica peninsula in southwestern Peru. His house, built by him and his sons, stands at the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Titicaca.
A handful of tiny communities are nestled between the rocky mountains bordering the lake. These villages are rarely visited by tourists and the only accommodation available is home stay.
Felix's choice left me baffled. Apparently, these kinds of things do not only happen in the Philippines.
Only in the Philippines is a common expression we hear people use to describe the state of affairs in my country; how awful the traffic is, how bad the roads are, how crazy the politics is.
When former president Joseph Estrada, who was ousted in a popular revolution in 2001 and later on jailed for corruption, came close to winning last year's elections after placing second, I shook my head, bewildered and said "Only in the Philippines".
Keiko Fujimori, one of the top three contenders for the April elections in Peru, is the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori who fled to Japan in 2000 after his chief military aide was caught on camera bribing officials.
He was arrested during a visit to Chile in 2005 and was extradited to his homeland where he was jailed for human rights violation during his 10-year rule from 1990 to 2000. Keiko has said she may pardon her father if she gets elected.
I used to think modern societies learn from the past, but it seems history teaches us otherwise. The choice of a leader shows the level of political maturity of a nation's population and what is becoming apparent to me is that education plays a crucial role in this.
That, I think, is the curse of poor countries like the Philippines and Peru where education suffers.
But things are changing, no matter how slow. Philippine President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino is prioritizing education. He is building 17,000 classrooms and hiring 15,000 teachers this year to improve education and increase jobs in a nation where the World Bank estimates one out of every four people live on less than $1.25 a day.
And across the ocean, 18.7 million Peruvians will go to the polls next month and elect a new president. Each one of them hoping that their next leader will be able to lead their nation out of poverty. People like Felix who at 52, goes out fishing every night and returns at dawn to help provide for his 14 grandchildren. Some of them don't go to school.
And so, I hope ... with them. Buena suerte, mi amigo. I hope you make the right choice.
A Culture of Depravity
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