Half of presidential hopefuls in Peru have ties to Jews

Out of four frontrunners, one is the son of a Jewish physician who fled Nazi Germany, while another is married to a Jew with Israeli citizenship.

April 10, 2011 07:23
2 minute read.
Half of presidential hopefuls in Peru have ties to Jews

star of david. (photo credit: courtesy)


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Peruvian voters will go to the polls Sunday to pick a president from among four front-runners, two of whom have ties to Judaism or Israel.

Pablo Pedro Kuczynski, the son of a Jewish physician who fled Nazi Germany, is one of a group of hopefuls engaged in a tight race for the presidency in the South American nation. Kucyznski, who on his mother’s side is related to French director Jean-Luc Goddard, is a Harvard-educated economist who promises to eradicate poverty in the Andean state if elected.

He is running against his one-time boss Alejandro Toledo, Peru’s president between 2001 and 2006, under whom he served as finance minister and prime minister. Toledo is considered a close friend of Israel and is married to Eliane Karp, a Belgian- born Jew who has Israeli citizenship and speaks Hebrew. The politician grew up in an impoverished family of indigenous Quechua origin with 15 other siblings and went on to do a doctorate in human resources from Stanford University before entering politics. He last visited Israel three years ago as a guest of the Peres Center for Peace on occasion of its tenth year anniversary.

The two other leading candidates are Ollanta Humala, a leftist politician who recently took a lead in the polls, and Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, who was convicted of conspiracy to murder and corruption during his presidency and is serving a prison sentence in Lima.

If none of the candidates receive over 50 percent of the vote, which seems unlikely at the moment, the two leading candidates will enter a run-off election.

If Kuczynski, who is currently ranked third in the polls, is eventually elected he will be the first president with Jewish heritage in Peru but he will by no means be the first prominent Jewish figure in the country.

At about 2,000 people, Peru’s Jewish community is one of the smallest yet most influential in South America. Many of its members are high-ranking politicians, businessmen, scientists and artists.

So far there have been at least two other prime ministers with Jewish backgrounds besides Kuzcynski: Efrain Goldberg, who served as finance and foreign minister in the 1990s, and Yehude Simon, a leftist politician who was briefly prime minister two years ago and is the son of a Jewish father and Italian mother. David Waisman, a Romanian-born Jew, served as Toledo’s vice president between 2001 and 2006.

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