His political views are still a mystery, and the party he represents has never before formed a national government. But last week Alan García Pérez, 35, the charismatic leader of Peru’s centre-left American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA), scored a resounding election victory that made it all but certain he will be sworn in as the country’s next president on July 28, Peru’s Independence Day. Although Garcia fell just short of the absolute majority needed to capture the presidency, his 48-per-cent share of the popular vote in a nine-man race left him in a strong position to defeat the second-place finisher, leftist Alfonso Barrantes Lingán, 57, in a run-off election to be held in June. Declared Garcia, clearly expecting a second-round triumph: “This is not only a victory for APRA but for Peru and all Peruvians.”
In fact, the results seemed to represent a sweeping renunciation of the conservative parties that have traditionally governed the South American nation of 19 million. Although incumbent president Fernando Belaúnde Terry, 73, was constitutionally barred from succeeding himself, the candidate fielded by his centre-right Popular Action party received just six per cent of the presidential vote. Almost 70 per cent of Peruvian voters marked their ballots for either García or Barrantes, Lima’s soft-spoken and unassuming Marxist mayor. Swiftly conceding the governing party’s defeat, the entire 18-member Peruvian cabinet offered to resign so that Belaúnde could appoint an independent administration to run the country until a new government took over. But Belaúnde refused to accept the resignations.
Still, for most Peruvians last week’s elections did not dispel deep-seated uncertainty about the country’s future. Although he has vowed to adopt a more nonaligned foreign policy—and to seek new terms for repaying the country’s $13.5-billion (U.S.) foreign debt-Garcia has yet to define his policies on Peru’s two most pressing problems: the sagging domestic economy and the increasing terrorist attacks by the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas. There were only scattered reports of rebel violence last week, as most Peruvians ignored Sendero’s demand that they boycott the election. But analysts say that if the new president is unable to relieve the country’s myriad social and economic problems, the level of violence will escalate. —Ross LAVER
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