Peru: Toledo’s Triumph

Alejandro Toledo completed his long and difficult march to the Peruvian presidency with a narrow June 3 runoff victory over former President Alan García, setting the stage for inauguration on July 28 of “the stubborn and rebellious cholo (indigenous Peruvian)” as the nation’s “first democratically elected president of the 21st century,” reported Juan de la Puente in Lima’s center-left La República (June 4).

De la Puente credited Toledo’s hard-won success in his fourth national campaign to personal tenacity and a reputation for integrity and courage earned by “having kept alive the flame of democracy in the crucial months of the struggle against [discredited former President Alberto] Fujimori.” Toledo’s narrow margin of victory also carries “the expectation that he must achieve a consensus that would considerably broaden the radius of action of the new government,” De la Puente said.

La República noted in an editorial (June 5) that García’s remarkable political rebirth from the ashes of the economic collapse precipitated during his 1985-90 presidential tenure has turned his leftist APRA party into a “counterweight that can tip the balance in policy decisions by the new government.”

“After nearly a decade of authoritarianism,” the business-oriented Gestión of Lima commented in an editorial (June 5), “Alejandro Toledo has the enormous challenge of demonstrating that with democracy one can achieve economic progress, consolidate the rule of law, generate employment, and reduce existing inequalities, with order and security for all.”

Regional commentators lauded the Peruvian electoral outcome as a victory for democracy but also cautioned that the new president can ill afford to squander time in addressing the nation’s urgent economic problems. Most impressive, affirmed São Paulo’s conservative O Estado de S. Paulo in an editorial (June 5), is the fact that Peru weathered the institutional crisis sparked by Fujimori’s removal from office last autumn without unleashing political violence or military intervention. “Given the legacy of Latin America in terms of institutional instability, it is impossible to underestimate what occurred in Peru....But the sense of jubilation at the proof of Peruvian society’s political maturity does not erase the perception that President-elect Alejandro Toledo is a long way from being...equal to the tremendous challenges of...rebuilding Peru after the devastation of the Fujimori years,” O Estado said.

“Along with the economic challenges,” observed an editorial in Santiago’s conservative La Tercera (June 5), “Toledo must take charge of exposing corruption and legitimizing [public] institutions. His triumph does not mean that Peruvians have regained their confidence in the political establishment.”

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