Peru: Garcia beats Humala. What does this portend?

In April it appeared likely that Ollanta Humala (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ollanta_Humala) would be Peru’s next president. (See this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=367129) But now he’s been beaten by former President Alan Garcia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Garcia). Story: http://euronews.net/create_html.php?page=detail_info&article=362419&lng=1

What does this portend for the future of Peru, and Peruvian-American relations? The press described both candidates as “leftists,” but which is further “left”?

Humala is further left. In fact, Humala is like Chavez in a lot of ways. They’re both former army officers who led a failed coup against the government. They’re both populist protectionist nationalists who support nationalization of private industries, and land reform, and are hostile to free trade pacts.

Garcia is more “center left”, sort of a social democrat, like Lula. He campaigned on issues like improving Peru’s infrastructure, and, rather than siezure and redistribution of land, promised to offer low-interest loans to farmers to enable them to modernize.

Indeed it’s sometimes hard to tell if that “leftist” tag is even truly significant here.

To add to Captain Amazing’s summary, APRA, García’s party, is historically a socialdemocratic/labour/land-reform-type party, that was repressed dduring the years of military strongmen. When García was first elected back in the late 80s, his term in office was a mess, ending with a wrecked economy, astounding hyperinflation, government mismanagement and graft touching close to himself, and increased guerilla violence, the reaction to which opened the way to Fujimori. García has a lot to live down, and he has made many acts of contrition as to how he is now older and wiser, but still…

Ollanta Humala is one of those “new age” South American populist-nationalists in the mold of Chavez or Evo Morales, who brings along the expectation that he’d sock it to business interests and thumb his nose at the USA, and who identifies himself (fairly or not) with the lower classes and/or the native populations. However, he has a reputation from his Army officer days as someone hardcore and implacable, to the point of allegations of human-rights abuses (contrast Chavez, also a rebel officer but not particularly known as a “hardliner” when in uniform; and Evo, a leader of traditional Coca farmers).

The thing is, though García won the Presidential runoff, in the Congress nobody got a majority. The results were 45 seats for Humala’s Nationalist block; 36 seats for García’s APRA, 17 seats for the conservative coalition of Lourdes Flores, who finished very, very close behind Carcía on the first round of the presidentials; 13 seats for the Fujimorist parties, 5 seats for the “Centrist Front”, 4 seats for minor parties. Either of the two main contenders would have to form a coalition with the conservatives and centrists to get an agenda through Congress.

Humala will be back, almost certainly, and will remain very active. García will try to vindicate his disastrous first term but the expectations will be very, very low, considering his record: he is aware he was elected on a “lesser fo two evils”, “holding their noses”, ballot.

Trying to cast himself too much like Chavez seems to actually have hurt Ollanta, so it further refutes the idea that inevitably of Latin America’s “left turn” will be dominated by Evo/Chavez types: “mainstream” leftists like Lula da Silva, Michelle Bachelet or García still have room among the populist-nationalists. It does not however dimiss the reality of the “left turn” – Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Perú all are now dominated by various flavors of socialist and/or populist-nationalist parties; in Costa Rica it took a high-prestige Nobel-prizewinning former prez, Arias, to barely squeak by “anti-globalist” Solís; in Colombia the landslide victory of conservative Uribe was largely due to voters against him just not showing up, due to a collapse of the traditional “left” and the non-emergence of a viable alternative leader; plus his tough line on the ongoing insurgency. So the moderate center-right and center-left in the whole continent still have their work cut out for them.

JRDelirious I trully congratulate you for being one of the few people who actually knows what their talking about on internet forums, in these days were anyone can say nonsense and pretend its gospel, its really refrfeshing and encouraging to read well informed posts, btw, I am Peruvian and can certify what you’re saying is very accurate.

Interestingly, I saw an article in the Miami Herald a few days ago that suggested up to 11 of Humala’s block were going to split off from that group. I haven’t seen anything new on how that would affect coalition-building.

I’ve worked in Perú, and love the country (and have a number of Peruvian friends). I was relieved when Humala lost, mainly because of his potential for authoritarian rule. But I remember what it was like during García’s disastrous previous term, and certainly hope that he has learned as much as he claims he has since them.