[Marxism] Peru May Join Latin America's Populist Tilt to Left (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Jan 20 15:06:22 MST 2006

Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and now we can add Ollanta Humala to 
the list of Latin American leaders putting a hell of a fright into
Washington and its media minions. They have difficulty admitting
that the poor and working class majority might be looking to this
leader because capitalism has failed, so they put out the notion 
that Venezuela's president is bankrolling Humala's campaign. Of
course they know something about foreigners bankrolling election
campaigns, since that's Washington's stock-in-trade. Again we're
continuing to see the deepening movement toward the continental
integration which Marti, Bolivar, Chavez and Fidel have spoken
about taking shape before our vary eyes. No one predicted how
broadly Evo Morales would win. Let's hope Humala also wins, and
by a decisive majority. We're living in very exciting times!

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

January 16, 2006
Peru May Join
Latin America's
Populist Tilt to Left
Free-Trade Opponent's Lead
In Polls Poses New Challenge
To Market Reforms in Region
By DAVID LUHNOW in Mexico City and ROBERT KOZAK in Lima, Peru
January 16, 2006; Page A1

In the latest sign of the populist wave coursing through Latin
America, presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, a left-wing opponent
of free trade and free-market policies, has surged to the top of the
polls ahead of Peru's election in April, prompting fears that the
region's commitment to market-based reforms is waning.

The former army officer's rapid rise reflects the emergence of a more
radical and populist left in Latin America, particularly in the
impoverished Andean region, which forms an arc stretching from
Venezuela at the top of South America to Peru in the west. Mr.
Humala, who led a short-lived coup against a democratically elected
leader in 2000, has the vocal backing of Venezuelan President Hugo
Chávez, who has cultivated close ties with Cuban dictator Fidel

Like Mr. Chávez and Evo Morales, a former coca-leaf grower who won
the presidency of Bolivia in December, Mr. Humala has campaigned on a
promise to increase state control over the economy's key mining and
oil sectors. And like his counterparts in Caracas and La Paz, Mr.
Humala condemns globalization as a U.S.-led assault on the poor.

Since 2000, the left has done well in Latin America, helped by the
popular perception that free-market reforms aren't helping the poor,
by corruption among traditional political elites, and by an unpopular
U.S. foreign policy. Leftists who have won power in places like
Chile, Brazil and Uruguay have largely governed from the center,
controlling public spending and keeping their economies open to
trade. Yesterday, Chile's moderate Socialist party, whose policies
include the mandatory study of English in public schools, won a
second consecutive victory with the election of the country's first
female president, Michelle Bachelet.

But the possible rise of an Andean "troika" -- Messrs. Chávez,
Morales and Humala -- mentored from afar by Cuba's Mr. Castro, has
raised concern about how far to the left the region as a whole could
drift, especially in a year loaded with contested elections. On the
U.S. doorstep in Mexico, meanwhile, former Mexico City mayor Andres
Manuel Lopez Obrador leads the polls ahead of July's presidential
election on a populist platform, although he has tried to distance
himself from Mr. Chávez. Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, who has
a strong populist streak, recently turned more leftward by dismissing
his market-minded finance minister. And in Brazil, leftist President
Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva is trying to win re-election.

The populist wave is another headache for the Bush administration,
which has been widely criticized in the region for ignoring Latin
America. Mr. Morales has followed Mr. Chávez in attacking President
Bush as a "terrorist," for instance, and Mr. Humala has spoken out
against U.S. "domination." But the White House so far hasn't
responded in kind, reiterating its support for free elections even if
it doesn't like the results.

The U.S. remains a major source of aid for Andean nations and has
great influence in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank,
which are major creditors of the region. By stressing aid and support
for democracy, the U.S. hopes to limit the influence of Mr. Chávez,
Washington's main regional rival.

Although Peru's economy has grown rapidly in the past few years, 
Mr. Humala has been able to seize on the discontent of the poor,
especially the region's marginalized Indian groups, who have
benefited only slightly from the growth and are impatient for faster
results. A national survey released yesterday by Peru's leading
pollster, Apoyo Opinion & Mercado SA, showed Mr. Humala leading in
the presidential race for the first time, with 28% support, compared
with 25% for the second-place candidate, center-right former
congresswoman Lourdes Flores. Mr. Humala's rise has been meteoric. He
had just 8% support in Apoyo's October poll, compared with 27% for
Ms. Flores.

The surge in support for Mr. Humala, who vows to call a national
referendum on a free-trade deal signed in December between Peru and
the U.S., has rattled Peru's financial markets. Stock prices have
fallen steadily during the past months, and weakness in the country's
currency, the sol, prompted Peru's Central Reserve Bank to intervene
to support it every day last week, selling a total of $292.5 million
in the foreign-exchange market.

In a note to clients last week, investment bank Bear Stearns Cos.
warned that political trends in Latin America could hurt overseas
investors who have poured billions of dollars into stocks and bonds
in the past year, sending stock prices to highs in some places, such
as Mexico. The bank recommended that investors cut their exposure to
the region. Other analysts say a pragmatic left will continue to
dominate the landscape, especially since most leaders will have to
rely on outside investment, debt or taxes to generate funding for
their social programs, unlike Mr. Chávez, who has the advantage of
Venezuela's oil wealth.

At the least, a Humala victory could make life tough for
multinational companies. Mr. Humala wants to boost taxes and
royalties on foreign mining operations and claim at least a 49% share
for the government in Peru's giant Camisea natural-gas fields, which
are now run by a consortium including Spain's Repsol YPF SA and Hunt
Oil Co. of Dallas. He has also talked about greater state control
over the mining sector.

>From Mr. Chávez's perch atop the world's fifth-biggest oil exporter,
his influence has grown enormously. Since winning election in 1998,
the former paratrooper has cast himself as a defender of Venezuela's
sovereignty by tearing up contracts with major Western oil companies,
such as Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and forcing them to
accept greater state control and pay higher royalties and taxes on
their Venezuelan projects. He has used the money to fund a lavish
social spending program at home and to offer cut-rate oil to dozens
of Latin nations. Although economists warn Venezuela will be in
trouble if the price of oil falls, Mr. Chávez's 70% approval ratings
haven't discouraged other politicians from following his lead.

Bolivia's president-elect, Mr. Morales, took a page from Mr. Chávez's
book in winning December's national election, promising to protect
the country's natural-gas resources from outside interests. How that
will translate into action remains to be seen, but at the very least
it appears he will favor state-run energy companies over Western
companies in handing out contracts.

Mr. Humala's career so far resembles that of Mr. Chávez. Mr. Humala
and his brother Antauro, a former army major, led some 70 followers
in a short-lived military rebellion in October 2000, a month before
Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's 10-year regime ended in a
corruption scandal. Congress later pardoned Mr. Humala. Likewise, 
Mr. Chávez's failed coup in 1992 made him a national figure who was
jailed briefly before going on to win the presidency.

Mr. Humala turned up as a surprise guest earlier this month when Mr.
Morales visited Mr. Chávez in Caracas. At the meeting, Mr. Chávez
openly backed Mr. Humala, angering outgoing Peruvian President
Alejandro Toledo, who accused the Venezuelan leader of meddling in
Peruvian politics and using his oil money to destabilize the region.

Some Peruvians worry that Mr. Humala could make Mr. Chávez seem like
a moderate. Of greatest concern is his family. His brother Antauro is
in jail after leading another bloody rebellion against the government
last year, and his father, Isaac, is the founder of a movement that
touts the superiority of the "copper colored" race -- the country's
Indian or mixed-blood majority. Ollanta Humala has distanced himself
from his father, but has advocated some of his views, including
building up Peru's armed forces.

Peruvian government officials say Mr. Humala's campaign war chest is
being secretly funded by Venezuela's Mr. Chávez, through diplomatic
channels. One official said "over $1 million" has come into Mr.
Humala's coffers through the Venezuelan Embassy. Mr. Humala has
publicly denied receiving financial support from Mr. Chávez.

If no candidate wins a majority in the April 9 vote, which is likely,
the country would hold a run-off between the top two. The Apoyo poll
showed Ms. Flores still has an edge in voter intentions for the
second round, leading Mr. Humala by 46% to 39%. But that lead has
narrowed quickly. In December, Ms. Flores had a 50%-to-35% lead over
her rival, and analysts said Mr. Humala's quick rise makes him the
current favorite to win the second round.

The race seems to be coming down to a choice between continuity and
change. Ms. Flores promises to continue the country's impressive
economic growth under Mr. Toledo, while Mr. Humala says the growth
hasn't helped the poor quickly enough and vows to "refound" the
country and constitution along more egalitarian lines.

--Joel Millman contributed to this article.

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