June 5, 2006

The Lesser Evil In the Andes

Hatched by Dafydd

In Peru's election runoff yesterday, populist former President Alan García seems to have beaten Communist rebel leader and Hugo Chávez accolyte Ollanta Humala:

With 77 percent of the vote tabulated, electoral authorities said Mr. García had captured more than 55 percent of the vote versus 44 percent for his opponent, Ollanta Humala, an upstart nationalist who promised to redistribute the country's wealth.

(This margin of victory will surely narrow as more of Peru's rural districts, Humala's stronghold, are counted.)

The previous term of Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez, 1985-1990, was marred by corruption and economic collapse:

Voters had seen the race as an unappealing choice between a former president whose first administration had been an unmitigated disaster and a former army officer who once led a military rebellion. But voters saw Mr. García as the lesser of two evils. "It is sad, but what can we do?" said Víctor Rondoy, 48, an electrical engineer, moments after voting for Mr. García. "At least García will be more democratic."

Mr. García's return is one of the most startling in a region where former presidents, even those who left in disgrace, have returned to power years later. His rule from 1985 to 1990 was characterized by four-digit inflation, food scarcity, rampant corruption and growing violence by the rebel group Shining Path.

Wikipedia is rather more specific:

Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez (born May 23, 1949 in Lima) was President of Peru from 1985 to 1990. His presidency was marked by bouts of hyperinflation, social turmoil, human rights violations, increasing violence, increase of blackouts in Lima, international financial isolation, a failed attempt to confiscate the 2 main banks and economic downturn.

Humala was seen as being in thrall to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez, whose stolen recall election was tainted by fraud. This was on the minds of Peruvian voters Sunday, and many appeared to consider García the lesser evil.

NOTE: I had originally written that the recall election of Chávez was so tainted by fraud that even Jimmy Carter refused to approve it. But I misremembered, as reader and blogger Xrlq noted. In fact, the Carter Center did indeed accept the results of that very tainted election, where right up through election day, polls and even exit polls by Penn, Schoen, and Berland showed the recall winning by up to 18% -- but when the Chávez people counted the ballots, it turned out, miracle of miracles, the no votes had actually won... by 18%. See, for example, Richard Baehr writing on the American Thinker. When exit polls are off by a couple, three percent, that's normal and unremarkable; it means nothing. But when a well-designed exit poll is off by 36%, that is a very strong indicator of fraud on somebody's part. (Some other web sources go to bat for Chávez, including Wikipedia... but of course, by the very nature of Wikipedia, we have no idea who wrote that article or what were his biases.)

Big Lizards has been following the Peruvian election, even though our preferred candidate, conservative Lourdes Flores Nano, came in a very close third in the first round of voting in April. She had been leading the pack before the April 9th round of voting; but when Humala came out of nowhere to take first place on April 9th with 30% of the vote, Flores and García found themselves neck and neck (alas, this quotation is from an AP story that is no longer available):

Humala had 27.3 percent of the vote with 46.2 percent of the ballots counted. Pro-business former congresswoman Lourdes Flores had 26.5 and Alan Garcia, a center-leftist ex-president, got 26.1.

But Humala had a wider lead in an unofficial voting sample more representative of the nation. Those results, from the widely respected election watchdog Transparencia, showed him with 29.9 percent of the vote, while Flores and Garcia had 24.4 percent and 24.3 percent respectively. The projection, based on 928 voting tables, had an error margin of less than 1 percentage point.

Sadly, center-right Flores was edged out in the end by center-left García; but at least García was able to beat Humala, the "Chávez-lite" of Peru, which isn't chopped liver.

Flores is only 46 years old, and she can certainly run for the presidency again in 2011 (she will be 51) -- Peru's 1993 constitution forbids incumbent presidents from running for re-election, so it may well come down to Flores vs. Humala... a contest we're very hopeful Flores will win.

The question is whether, in the meantime, García will institute real capitalism in Peru, or give in to his old "demons" of corruption, nationalization of banks, and printing money like the New York Times prints newspapers.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 5, 2006, at the time of 3:45 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

Freinds of mine in Peru were scared witless that Chavez-lite would be elected... seems the Chavez/Castro roving medical teams were working hard in the poor districts, giving free health care and whispering promises if Humala were to be elected. Check a map and see what Castro's philosophical successor would have had as a regional powerbase...

As you say, Garcia did not do Peru or the World any favors the last time he was at the helm, but he has a fair arguement in that he WAS young and inexperienced. Oddly, running on a ticket that said "I screwed up so badly last time this time HAS to be better" was a winning arguement; not because they think he was a Prince, but because Peru was afraid of becoming more like Venezuela.

They asked for my prayers running up to the election, I think maybe they could still use some now.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2006 4:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: Xrlq

Humala was seen as being in thrall to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez, whose stolen re-election was so tainted by fraud that even Jimmy Carter refused to certify it.

Got a link for that? I recall precisely the opposite, i.e., Carter eagerly vouching for the election long before any fraud had been demonstrated, and saying nothing once it had been.

The above hissed in response by: Xrlq [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2006 5:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Huh, I recalled it differently, but I think you're right. I'll correct the post.

Thanks, Xrlq!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2006 11:37 AM

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