Tags: peruvian | leader | chavista | trend

Peruvian Leader Takes Risks by Bucking Chavista Trend

Image: Peruvian Leader Takes Risks by Bucking Chavista Trend

By    |   Tuesday, 06 Aug 2013 01:00 PM

Since taking office two years ago, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala “was elected as a leftist but has governed as a conservative,” according to the Economist magazine, and many union leaders regard him as a “traitor to their cause.”

Meanwhile, business, which initially warmed to Humala’s more pragmatic approach to economic issues, was disappointed by his suggestion that the state-owned oil company could acquire interest in a refinery and other assets being sold by Repsol, a Spanish company.

According to a poll taken in early May, Peruvians disapproved the idea by a 54-37 percent margin and Humala’s popularity dropped. Rather than pressing forward in populistic caudillo fashion like the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Humala “withdrew the proposal and initiated a groundbreaking dialogue with the private sector,” former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noreiga wrote recently in the Miami Herald.

After that crisis, Humala helped reassure the private sector by joining a new “Pacific Alliance” trade bloc along with Chile, Mexico and Colombia. He committed to attacking inequality in Latin America through “social inclusion” and by extending “access to markets.”

On the counternarcotics front, Humala’s government has cooperated fully with U.S. efforts and has committed to eradicating more acreage of the illicit coca crop — in part because the Marxist radical group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) benefits from cocaine trafficking.

“Two years ago, I was among those who alerted Peruvians to Humala’s dependence on the ‘Chavista’ political machine,” wrote Noriega, who also served as ambassador to the Organization of American States under President George W, Bush. “At the very least, President Humala has proven to be more of a pragmatist than ideologue, and he appears increasingly comfortable with free market solutions over a statist agenda.”

The Peruvian economy is expected to grow at a solid 5 percent rate this year, the Economist writes. ”Luis Miguel Castilla, the capable economy minister, points out that Peru remains an attractive destination for mining investment, with lower energy and labour costs than neighbouring Chile.”

But without reforms, such as a civil-service law to reform a sclerotic government bureaucracy, to create a more effective state, growth will slow, he admits.

Mr Humala is not yet as unpopular as his two predecessors became. Indeed, Steven Levitsky, a political scientist at Harvard University, pointed out recently, no Peruvian president since 1997 has managed to sustain an approval rating of more than 50 percent.

But Levitsky, the Economist warns, contends “that Mr Humala has become politically more isolated than his two predecessors, with few firm allies outside the army. If that continues, it could eventually be dangerous for Peru’s democracy.”


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Since taking office two years ago, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala "was elected as a leftist but has governed as a conservative," according to the Economist magazine, and many union leaders regard him as a "traitor to their cause."
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2013-00-06
Tuesday, 06 Aug 2013 01:00 PM
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