Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Job One for Humala – Prove he is a Democrat

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on June 15, 2011

by Meenakshi Krishnan for Center of Strategic and International Studies, June 13th, 2011.

On June 28, Ollanta Humala will be sworn into office as president of Peru, winning a run-off election on June 5 by the slimmest of margins.  Having campaigned as a populist nationalist in the model of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez in the past and then as a center leftist like Brazil’s Ignacio Lula da Silva, consistency is not his strong suit.  Thus, he will have to show he is ready to govern, as he now says, as a democrat-free marketeer who can help the poor without upsetting Peru’s recent economic success.

Oddly, Humala seems to have won over enough people by emphasizing his honesty, a quality that many feared in his opponent Keiko Fujimori, who said she would free her ex-president father Alberto from prison, convicted of corruption and human rights violations.

But Humala was no choirboy either. In the last days of the Fujimori presidency, he and his brother Antauro, led 40 soldiers in a brief uprising against their senior commander to protest Fujimori’s government.  And he once expressed sympathy for General Juan Velasco who took power by coup in 1968, nationalized industries, and sought closer ties with Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Earlier this decade, Humala was accused of human rights abuses as a military commander in the 1990s.   During the 2006 presidential contest, his connection with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez probably led to his loss.  Still, politicians can change their stripes.  Alan García’s disastrous first term almost put the country into bankruptcy.  In 2007, he came back to preside over one of the greatest periods of prosperity in Peru’s history.

This year’s campaign witnessed Humala’s reinvention. Initially, he proposed a platform that labeled market economics as “predatory” and backed nationalization of “strategic activities.” Yet, when he was in the runoff with the more conservative Fujimori, his advisers (including aides of former Brazilian president Lula da Silva) encouraged him to abandon authoritarian populism for a more “market-friendly model.” (continue reading… )

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