Peru gets a new president

6 June 2011


Ollanta Humala is now the president-elect of Peru; his competition in the run-off election, Keiko Fujimori, has conceded defeat. The election was notable for the sharp divisions it highlighted. Humala was characterized as “left wing” while Fujimori was characterized as “right wing.” Predictably, both candidates attempted to position themselves as occupying the reasonable center, while each sought to blacken the other by reminding the voters of the history of each.

Ollanta Humala is now president-elect of Peru.

Keiko Fujimori is the daughter of Alberto Fujimori, former iron-fisted strongman who brought Peru back from the brink during the violent years of the Sendero Luminoso insurgency. While the elder Fujimori is now in prison in Peru, having voluntarily returned after a brief self-imposed exile in Japan, it is to be noted that he was an elected strongman who still has a strong constituency. In Colombia, Algeria, Peru, Pakistan I characterized Alberto Fujimori as a kind of Peruvian Cincinnatus, who was used by his country in its hour of need, only to be disposed of later when a strongman was no longer needed. I imagine that my interpretation would be less than welcome in many quarters.

Keiko Fujimori lost a very close election to Humala.

Ollanta Humala has his own issues from the past, especially his previously close relationship with Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. Both Chávez and Ollanta led unsuccessful coups against their countries, but this shouldn’t raise any eyebrows in South America. What with Pepe Mujica in Uruguay and Álvaro García Linera Bolivia it has almost become de rigueur for a South American head of state to have been a former terrorist or coup-plotter.

This is the image that Humala now prefers to project.

There have been persistent rumors that Chávez bankrolled Ollanta Humala’s campaign, though Ollanta Humala has sought to distance himself from Chávez and his policies, as association with Chávez is highly unpopular. Ollanta Humala has been seeking to identify himself with former Brazilian president Luiz Iniacio Lula da Silva. Foreign Policy a couple of weeks ago had an interesting story on this, Can a Chávista become a Lulaista? In this article we find the following closing paragraph:

“Humala’s ostensible change of heart may be sincere and not merely an electoral ploy, but there is surely a strong smell of opportunism in his abrupt metamorphosis. And the comparison with Lula is notably specious. After all, Lula’s political thinking evolved over decades: a product of his experience as a union leader, opponent of Brazil’s military dictatorship, and head of the Workers Party. His democratic credentials — the practiced art of give and take — were earned and shaped through a series of political battles. Indeed, Lula only reached the presidency on his fourth try.”

Humala has gained the presidency of Peru after two tries, and less political evolution than Lula. I would argue that he also shows markedly less political evolution that Alan García, whom he will be replacing in the presidency.

Peru has shown remarkable economic growth since the end of the Sendero Luminoso insurgency. The peaceful transfer of power from Alejandro Toledo to Alan García, as well as the latter’s stable and prosperous recent term in office suggest that Peru’s political institutions have matured, and we can hope that these institutions will be sufficiently mature to prevent Ollanta Humala from Chávista policies even if he should reveal himself as an unreconstructed leftist once he takes office. And I honestly don’t think that he will present himself this way, even if these are his core beliefs.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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