16 Peru: The Left Turn That Wasn’t
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c h a p t e r s i x t e e n Peru The Left Turn That Wasn’t m a x w e l l a . c a m e r o n The day after Alan García Pérez, former president of Peru (1985–90) and leader of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana [APRA]) party, won the second round of the presidential election, the conservative newspaper El Comercio ran the headline “The Mandate for García Is Social Inclusion .”¹ Owned by the aristocratic Miró Quesada family, which throughout much of the 20th century fought tenaciously against what they called “Apro-Communism,” El Comercio lectured the newly elected president that he should, in the words of the scion of that great family, Francisco Miró Quesada Rada, invest in health care, education , housing, and communications to integrate the country; create the conditions for equitable citizenship; and overcome exclusion and marginality.² El Comercio’s surprising role reversal was matched only by García’s transformation . A few days later, on June 11, in a conversation with a group of foreign reporters, the president-elect seemed to imagine a different future. Dismissing what journalists implied was an imperative to dedicate special attention to the southern highlands and the Amazon, where voters had rejected him in favor of left populist Ollanta Humala, García insisted that, having won the allegiance of 7 million voters who did not want Humala, he was not about to “Humalize” himself (“no me voy a humalizar”). “Let us not forget the message of the majority of the electorate,” he reminded reporters, and then, in a striking twist on his 1985 campaign slogan (“My commitment is to all Peruvians”), García resolved: “My first commitment is to my program and my electorate.”³ From the perspective of Latin America’s left turns, Peru appeared to be a dog that did not bark—twice.⁴ In the first place, conditions associated with the most radical shifts to the left elsewhere in Latin America were present, including the collapse of the party system, long-standing patterns of social exclusion that provided the basis for efforts to mobilize voters around ethnic consciousness (what the Humalas called “ethno-Cacerism”),⁵ widespread rejection of the political class, and a resource boom 376 Case Analyses that exacerbated the inequalities between the coast, on the one hand, and the highlands and the Amazon, on the other. Where these conditions occurred elsewhere in Latin America, the populist or movement Left tended to win. Nevertheless, a majority of voters rejected Humala, a populist outsider cut from much the same cloth as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez or Ecuador’s Rafael Correa.⁶ Moreover, the remnants of the movement Left, which had emerged in Peru with the transition to democracy in the late 1970s, the United Left (Izquierda Unida [IU]), were virtually wiped off the political map. As a result, Peru seemed oddly out of step with the direction of much of the region. Peru was also a dog that did not bark in a second sense: García could have governed from the left, but he chose not to. He chose not to “Humalize” himself partly because he intuited the logic of Peru’s new electoral arithmetic. The commodity export boom had brought enough prosperity to poor voters in Lima to make them lukewarm toward Humala. Not only was Lima more influential in defining the election outcome than it ever had been before,⁷ so that for the first time since 1980 Cuzco (the highland city, once the capital of the Tawantinsuyu, or Inca empire) found itself on the losing side of an election; just as importantly, the alignment of protest voters in the towns and countryside, so critical to the success of past antisystem candidates and the Left in the 1980s, failed to materialize. APRA won a plurality of the urban popular vote on the coast, while Humala won the voters in the south and central highlands and the Amazon; together they divided the voters who represented the natural constituency of the Left. This red-green schism was a key factor mitigating Peru’s shift to the left in 2006, and the lesson for García was clear: a party that kept urban voters content could win without the support of the highlands and the Amazon. One could argue that the Right had been unexpectedly trounced, leading to a runoff between the leader of a populist machine and a populist left...