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Saturday, 11 June 2011

Peru's shift to the left?

Ollanta Humala was elected last week as President of Peru, and it marks another significant shift to the left by the people of Latin America. Some did not think it was possible, as Peru and Colombia are seen as unshakable supporters of the US free market model. Investors showed what they thought of the people#s decision by wiping 12% off the value of Peru's stock market in a single day.

Humala had to endure the jibing of a hostile press, and the constant derision from elite of the country who almost universally supported his opponent, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the disgraced former President, Alberto Fujimori. This was despite Mr Humala having to make significant shifts to the right since his last election defeat in 2006, which had been attributed to his support for and association with Hugo Chavez. To appease worried middle class voters, Humala ditched many of his left wing policies and appeared to favour a more free market model.

If Humala does not regain the courage of his earlier convictions, then his presidency is unlikely to be of much benefit to the third of the population living below the poverty line, and the next third who 'get by' under the free market model currently prevalent in Peru.

He must be bold if he is to make the kind of changes seen by those lifted out of poverty in nearby Venezuela and Bolivia. Should he decide to follow that route, he must be prepared for the continuous attacks on his government from the US, the multinationals and the 'markets'.

For the sake of the poor, for the sake of Peru, home of Gustavo Gutierrez, father of Liberation Theology, let us pray for courage in Peru's new president.

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