Disgraced former president regains control in Peru

ALAN Garcia staged a remarkable comeback in Peru’s run-off election, beating a fiery nationalist backed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to regain control of the country 16 years after his first presidential term ended in economic ruin and rebel violence.

“I want our party this time to demonstrate to the Peruvian people, who have called it to the highest responsibilities, that it will not convert the state into booty,” Garcia said, referring to widespread corruption that marked his first term from 1985-’90, when tens of thousands of party members landed state jobs.

Garcia said voters in Sunday’s run-off had sent an overwhelming message to Chavez, the anti-American leader of Venezuela.

They rejected the “strategy of expansion of a militaristic, retrograde model that he has tried to impose in South America”, he said.

Chavez had endorsed 43-year-old Ollanta Humala, who burst on to the political scene in 2000 while leading a small-scale military rebellion against then-president Alberto Fujimori’s foundering corruption-riddled regime.

Garcia left office in disgrace in 1990 with Peru nearly bankrupt and battered by the devastating Shining Path insurgency.

He fled into exile two years later when Fujimori tried to arrest him, returning in 2001 after the Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations on corruption charges against him had expired.

Seething ethnic and class resentments deeply divide this Andean nation, and Mr Garcia acknowledged that one of his main challenges will be to rid the political class of corruption.

Mr Garcia won majorities in the capital, Lima, where a third of Peru’s 16 million voters live, and along the more developed northern coast.

Chavez was sharply criticised in Peru for meddling in the presidential campaign, prompting a diplomatic spat in which both countries have withdrawn their ambassadors.

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