Peru's new president faces daunting tasks after being sworn in

Posted Jul 29, 2011 by Timothy C M Brown
Former Peruvian revolutionary and military commander Ollanta Humala has been sworn in today as Peru's 94th President. Humala has promised to assist the poor while maintaining Peru's growing economy.
Venenzuelan president Hugo Chávez with Perú s new leader Ollanta Humala (right)
Venenzuelan president Hugo Chávez with Perú's new leader Ollanta Humala (right)
Following the second round of Peruvian elections on the 5th of June, won by the Peruvian Nationalist Party (Gana Perú), the newly elected President Ollanta Humala was sworn in officially today to begin his new role. The former Lieutenant Colonel of the national army pledged in his first day in office to assist the poor "Peru's peasants and the poor in the countryside in general will be the priority'' he said to. Humala flagged social inclusion amongst the poorer rural areas of Peru as a particular issue to focus on during his term, saying "we want to erase the word 'social exclusion' from our vocabulary and our reality forever," while also adding that strengthening the economy will be high on the agenda, hoping to capitalize on the nations minerals boom, as approximately 10 million Peruvians still live below the poverty line on less than one dollar a day.
Achieving these goals will not be easy with the leftist President in power, as the Peruvian stock market plunged by 12.5 points following the announcement of his victory, amounting to its biggest loss ever. Investors are largely concerned with the new government increasing state control over economically fast growing industries and dismantling free market reforms, a claim not helped by Humala’s close association with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, which is also keeping financiers wary, although Humala has renounced his former alliances with Chavez in recent weeks and attempted to present himself as a more moderate candidate in the lead up to the election. To solidify his reputation with the international financial community he has kept the same central bank chief as before Julio Velarde and has promised to maintain a more investor friendly Brazil-like economic model.
Humala’s history as a revolutionary is well documented, in 2000 he lead a successful uprising against the President at the time Alberto Fujimori who was accused and later convicted of multiple corruption charges and is currently serving twenty five years in prison. The catalyst for the revolution was the return of former Intelligence Chief Vladimiro Montesinos who had fled Peru for Panama after being caught bribing an opposition congressman to switch sides to the ruling party, his return indicating to Humala that Montesinos still had considerable influence within the government of the day. The subsequent investigations into Montesinos provided a litany of illegal activities including involvement drug trafficking and the smuggling of firearms. Alberto Fujimori was convicted of human rights abuses, murder and kidnapping charges, among others. Following the revelations Humala was pardoned by congress and free to resume his role in the military, after which he retired in 2004 and became leader of the National Party of Peru in 2005.
Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Alberto Fujimori, was running against Humala in the election, which was only narrowly won by Humala with 51.49% of the vote. Humala has acknowledged that to accomplish his goals in office he needs to work with all sides of the congress as his party lacks a majority in the house, however he caused controversy during the swearing in by promising to abide by the constitution of 1979 and not the revised 1993 model created by Alberto Fujimori, sparking outrage from the opposition party. Humala has set ambitious goals for Peru in the coming years and has already begun to deliver on some of the promises he made during the campaign, one of his first acts in office has been the raise the minimum wage to a monthly 750 soles, which is equivalent to $275US, and announced a pension plan for all over the age of 65.
Other policies to be put in place are to supply Peruvian natural gas to Peruvians as a priority and then to be exported, mediate over 200 conflicts in rural areas, fight drug trafficking by replacing cocaine fields with coca, honour all previous international pacts and free trade agreements that we enacted under the previous government, invest in public transport and re-establish the defunct national airline Aeroperu which ceased in 1993. All while continuing to keep a strong economy, which he plans to maintain by modernizing Peru’s agricultural industry.