On April 10, Ollanta Humala received most support among five presidential candidates, but not a majority. Eliminated were former neoliberal President Alejandro Toledo, his former economic minister and Lima mayor Luis Castaneda Lossio, and former Prime Minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
Discredited and now imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori’s daughter Keiko proceeded to a runoff with him.
On June 6, New York Times writer Simon Romero headlined, “Ex-Officer Set to Win Narrow Victory in Peru,” saying:
Incomplete returns show him heading for victory, rebuking Peru’s “economic model that has driven (its) robust growth, (but left) millions of (its) citizens….mired in poverty….”
Washington Post writer Juan Forero called it an “unhappy choice,” saying winner Humala openly admires “Venezuela’s firebrand president, Hugo Chavez,” then quoted Inter-American Dialogue head Michael Shifter claiming neither candidate is “committed to democracy.”
Reuters said “(l)eftwing former army (Lt. Col.) Ollanta Humala claimed victory” in Sunday’s elections, “strik(ing) a conciliatory tone as investors and the opposition worry he will ruin a long economic boom.”
Wall Street Journal writer Matt Moffett said his win “rais(es) a cloud of uncertainty over what has been one of the world’s most dynamic economies” by depriving Peru’s poor for its rich as well as Western business interests.
Succeeding incumbent Alan Garcia, Xinhua’s English language site said independent election monitors declared Humala the winner, getting over a 51% majority with more than 90% of ballots counted. Exit polls, in fact, had him winning with over 52%.
On July 28, he’ll be inaugurated for a five-year term until 2016. How center-left he’ll govern is very much in doubt given the record of others in the region, including Brazil’s Lula da Silva, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and others pursuing corporate friendly agendas.
In fact, in his book “Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire,” James Petras said former unionist leader Lula actually extended his predecessor’s privatizations and restrictive budget policies.
Instead of change, he delivered betrayal. Even before elected, he signed a letter of understanding with the IMF, promising business as usual by agreeing to full debt service, as well as pro-business neoliberal policies.
Then as president, he cut public employee pensions 30%. His agrarian policy subsidized agribusiness. He didn’t redistribute land to Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) as promised and cut spending for health and education. He also appointed right-wing bankers and other corporate executives to key posts, including economic and financial ones. As a result, Petras said he fit “the profile of a right-wing neoliberal politician,” not a populist one.
Morales also painfully disappointed by maintaining neoliberal fiscal austerity, economic stability, and other pro-corporate policies. Other regional leaders followed similar agendas, including Ecuador’s Correa and Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner, failing to deliver real change.
So why expect Humala to govern more like Chavez, combining participatory social democracy with business friendly policies. After July, Peruvians will know for sure what his call for “change” and “order” means as president, especially after he models himself after Lula, suggesting business as usual in office, not a radical shift left.
Representing the Gana Peru nationalist party, he appealed to the country’s poor, harmed by years of neoliberal harshness. In contrast, his opponent, Keiko Fujimori, openly endorsed free market privatizations, deregulation, and eliminating labor rights to attract foreign investment, much like her father in the 1990s.
So far, Peruvians believe Humala represents more populist interests than continuity. They may be very disappointed despite promises to increase taxes and royalties on mining companies to fund social programs, as well as stronger labor rights in a nation having few.
Reuters, in fact, said he’s made a concerted effort to “calm foreign investors,” saying he’ll honor the “independence of the central bank and the legal securiy of contracts signed with private enterprises.”
His Gana Peru Party, in fact, advocates joint state, domestic/foreign investment partnerships, Peruvians having majority control. As a result, he promised changes in Peru’s 1993 Constitution and reviews of previously negotiated trade agreements, whether or not, he’ll defy Western interests by softening agreed on provisions. In fact, he said:
“From the moment these were signed, they cannot be unilaterally questioned or revised, except when specific clauses allowed for in (them) or when flagrant illegality preceded (their) adoption.”
Political rhetoric aside, expect a Humala administration to continue most past policies poor Peruvians want changed. Not likely short of massive grassroots pressure forcing him. Even that won’t likely work given entrenched interests enforcing status quo harshness backed by Wall Street and Washington, the force targeting all leaders out of step with their agenda.
A Final Comment
A mid-day June 6 Reuters report headlined, “Left-winger Humala wins Peru election, markets plunge,” saying:
Humala’s vow to share Peru’s wealth with its poor sent “financial markets plummet(ing) on fears (he’ll) ruin the economy.”
Widening his slim lead, it’s expected to increase as poor rural returns come in, areas where he’s strongest. As a result, “Peru’s stock market sank about 11 percent, while the sol currency fell 1.5 percent,” prompting central bank efforts to curb it.
Addressing thousands of cheering supporters, Humala said he’ll “install a government of national unity,” adding that he wants “economic growth with social inclusion (to) build a more just Peru for everybody.”
Calming investors, Humala’s top economic advisor and possible new finance minister, Kurt Burneo, warned speculators betting against Peru would get burned, saying:
“Those speculating now are simply going to lose their money because everything is very solid,” suggesting little change from current policies.
In fact, Humala’s likely central bank head, Felix Jimenez, added:
“Our economic proposals are totally sensible: to maintain macroeconomic equilibrium, consolidate growth and create conditions for private domestic and foreign investment growth.”
If both men run Peru’s economy, expect today’s market plunge to be a buying opportunity for savvy investors seeing a chance for quick profits, not a red flag to shift funds elsewhere.