Did the US ‘help’ Garcia win Peru’s election?
It's hard to believe that Garcia won Peru's presidential election after being pegged as a long-shot just a few weeks ago. Indeed, it reminds me of another president whose unlikely re-election left the world reeling not too long ago. Perhaps the two victories have more in common than meets the eye.
Alan García won the presidency of Peru on Sunday, official figures showed, making an improbable comeback from a presidential term in the 1980s that even his backers admit was disastrous, exile in the 1990s and an electoral defeat five years ago.But, exactly whose message was it that they sent?
García, a moderate leftist, won 55 percent of the vote to defeat retired Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala, an ultra-nationalist leftist, who had 45 percent, with 77 percent of the vote counted Sunday. Three exit polls showed García winning by about the same margin.
''García was the least bad of two bad choices,'' Javier Osorio, a bank employee, said at his polling station, in a sentiment shared by many. "I just hope he's changed."
Sunday's results have important implications beyond this Alaska-sized country with 27 million people, as Garcia didn't hesitate to address in his first postelection remarks Sunday night.
García said Peruvians had sent an overwhelming message to Venezuela's Hugo Chávez that they had rejected the "strategy of expansion of a militaristic, retrograde model that he has tried to impose in South America."
Chávez had backed Humala in the fervent hope that Peru would join Cuba and Bolivia in a Venezuelan-led socialist and populist bloc that opposes market friendly policies supported by the United States and Brazil. García has neither endorsed nor rejected a free-trade agreement negotiated with Washington but awaiting congressional approval.I'll bet, considering where each candidate stands on the most important issues, the Bush administration and its banking and oil cronies stood to lose a lot if Humala was elected.
Chávez took the unusual step of publicly endorsing Humala, as had Bolivia's new president, Evo Morales. Brazil, the United States and Chile quietly favored García.
"Most indications are that García will steer a middle course, which will likely calm any jitters the international financial and investment community might have about Peru,'' David Scott Palmer, a Boston University international relations professor who has been coming to Peru since 1962, said by telephone.
"For U.S. officials, the result will bring a collective sigh of relief. It means they will have one less challenge they have to deal with in the region."
Garcia, 57, a social democrat, wants to maintain free-market policies, but focus more on social issues, and says he has learned from the mistakes of his 1985-1990 administration, which led Peru to economic ruin.Now, at least, they can rest assured that Peru will not follow in the footsteps of Bolivia and Venezuela. I wonder how much they paid for that assurance?
Humala, 43, had pledged that if elected he would redistribute the country's wealth and nationalize the key mining sector.
If they did have something to do with Garcia's victory, they had better be prepared for a fight from Humala.
Lloyd Axworthy, head of the Organisation of American States' observer mission in Peru, told the FT that the nationalist "has warned us directly that he could take street action in response to the perception of fraud".