Peru Confirms Latin America's Swing to the Left
by DANIEL HANNAN
June 7, 2011
Ollanta Humala: no one has yet accused him of human sacrifice
First it was Venezuela, then Bolivia, then Ecuador, then Nicaragua. Now it’s my native Peru. One by one, largely unremarked here, Latin America’s nations are turning to the authoritarian Left.
Ollanta Humala, who won yesterday’s presidential run-off, is typical of the breed of modern caudillo. A cashiered former army officer, he had concocted an angry and aggrieved programme which mingled ethnic nationalism, hostility to private enterprise, nostalgia for pre-Columbian times and anti-Chilean revanchism. His hero is Juan Velasco, the socialist general who seized power in a putsch in 1968, and promptly set about reducing Peru to a condition of penury from which it has only recently recovered. (One of my first memories is of the land invasions and mob violence of that baleful era.)
Humala’s opponent in the run-off was Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the man who, as president in the 1990s, closed down Congress and gave himself autocratic powers, and who is now serving 25 years for human rights abuses. Mario Vargas Llosa saw it as a choice between two illiberal extremes – or, as he graphically put it, “between AIDS and cancer”. He voted, reluctantly and fearfully, for Humala.
Humala, who used to boast of his closeness to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, now says he has moderated his views, and I hope to God he means it. Look at the other Chavists who have seized power in the neighborhood, such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa. They may not be exactly anti-democratic, but they are certainly anti-parliamentary; Bonapartists, if you like. Having got themselves more or less fairly elected, they promptly set about dismantling every constraint on their power: the national assembly, the electoral commission, the supreme court, independent media, business associations. In order to maintain their popularity, they keep picking fights – with Washington, with the IMF or, when all else fails, with each other.
After years of languishing, Peru has recently enjoyed far stronger growth than neighbouring countries. Yet the markets have reacted sharply to Humala’s victory: the currency is plummeting and the stock exchange down. Peru has massive agrarian surpluses, rich fisheries, oil and tin, gold and silver and copper. Yet, until very recently, it was pauperised by successive governments. Now, it seems, the bad times are coming back.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Daniel Hannan is a British writer and journalist. He has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the EU is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free. He is the winner of the Bastiat Award for online journalism.