Peru Inaugurates Humala -- Garcia and Constitution "No Shows"
Peru inaugurated Ollanta Humala on Thursday as the country’s first leftist president in 36 years. Humala vowed to push for domestic equality and regional integration, while at the same time promising to uphold the previous Constitution of 1979, not the current one in force, the Constitution of 1993. And in a seeming snub and controversial break of political protocol, Peru’s twice-elected, outgoing President Alan Garcia did not attend the ceremony to hand over the presidential sash (VIDEO)
LIMA – Former military commander Ollanta Humala was inaugurated Thursday as Peru's 97th president amid concerns of whether he will stick to his election promises to enhance social inclusion while at the same time following a moderate, centrist path with strict economic discipline like Brazil's popular former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“We want the social exclusion to disappear from our language and lives forever,” said Humala, promising to build “a Peru for everyone.”
Humala seemed to move swiftly to start implementing profound social reforms and show Peruvians his resolution to fulfil election promises. He immediately announced a two-stage 25% increase in the monthly minimum wage to 750 soles, or about $275, and unveiled pension increases for those older than 65.
“Economic growth and social inclusion will march together,” said Humala.
Peru had stunning growth -- including 8.8% economic growth in 2010 -- during Alan Garcia's presidency from 2006 to 2011, poverty was reduced to about 34% of the population, lifting about three million people out of poverty, but leaving about 10 million Peruvians still living on less than one to two dollars per day.
“The moderate messages that dominated the campaign ahead of the second round of voting carried over into the speech, although it is clear that he will look to increase the participation of the state in the economy with the aim to reduce poverty and promote ‘growth with social inclusion,’” said leading Latin American analyst Ben Ramsey of investment bank JP Morgan. “He attempted to strike a balance between markets and the private sector, the radical leftists in his camp, low-income groups, and the armed forces.”
Humala ran on a campaign promising greater distribution of the country’s wealth – particularly in the provinces where 60% of the people live in poverty. He pledged to impose more and higher taxes on mining companies to fund it, spooking investors and markets.
A few days after winning the June 5 presidential election run-off against Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, Humala travelled the continent to visit leaders and top U.S. policymakers to strengthen ties. He even had an unscheduled meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, to try and calm market and US fears of another Hugo Chavez acolyte.
Humala has tried to calm jitter international investors and markets. In a cabinet of 18 officials, five are businessmen and seven served in former government positions. The key post of finance minister went to Miguel Castilla, a Harvard-educated economist who was deputy finance minister under Garcia. Humala also retained Julio Velarde as head of Peru’s Central Bank.
Humala's new development plan for Peru calls for a transformation through a "National Market Economy", which will focus on expanding domestic markets in order to promote industrialization, strengthening social policies, nationalizing "strategic activities" and modernizing the agricultural and production sectors.
The plan seeks to maintain an economy open to foreign investment and trade, but at the same time build a national economy that creates viable alternatives to ensure rural areas will be developed through a strong local market with dignified jobs and competitive national companies.
"This is about how to deal with the deteriorating effect on living conditions of the people and the rise in inequality and poverty," Humala said, adding: "We are going to build a cabinet of national reconciliation, national unity, in order to provide economic stability for the country."
CONTROVERSY Notably absent from the inauguration of President Humala, was out-going President Garcia. Garcia had defeated Humala in 2006, and had also been President from 1985 to 1990. Garcia made excuses saying he feared being heckled in protests by lawmakers similar to those that marred the ceremony at the conclusion of his 1985-1990 government. Instead, Garcia gave a short televised address to the nation and attended a mass in downtown Lima instead.
A second moment of controversy in the inauguration came when Humala said he would abide by the principles of Peru's previous constitution of 1979, not its current one, passed in 1993. Former President Alberto Fujimori replaced the earlier constitution in 1993 in an act that Humala contends was illegal since it followed the closure by Fujimori of Congress and the courts. The 1993 constitution, however, was written by a constituent assembly and approved in a referendum.
REACTION Lima newspapers described the nation's first message to the Peruvian President, Ollanta Humala, between "moderate" and "explosive" after the announcements made and oath to the Constitution of 1979, instead of the existing pre-approved Constitution.
The influential El Comercio newspaper said on its front page that "oath overshadowed Controversial proposals" made by the president yesterday at the National Congress.
The newspaper explained that in recent weeks Humala, as president-elect, had taken "a moderate shift and for the free market" even forming a cabinet with people away from radical leftist ideas.
However, "the oath he made yesterday in Congress covered with a mantle of uncertainty and confrontation his first official act," said El Comercio.
"TURN" and "moderate message" were the headlines Peru.21 and Mail, for whom the mention of the previous charter was the most striking initial speech Humala.
"Apart from this huge mistake of mentioning the Constitution of ‘79 during his oath, the first presidential message Ollanta Humala seemed fairly moderate, so much so that even might have been given by (Alejandro) Toledo," the former president and political ally of the new government, said the director of E, Aldo Mariátegui in his column.
Meanwhile, the newspapers La Razón and Ojo led their editions with "Explosive Message!" "putting up anger and wages", in their summaries on the assumption Humala for president.
"We were wrong in holding that the great transformation (announced by Humala) would take a year to show its true face. It was not necessary to wait. From the kick-off and without anesthesia, the rules of the new game were put on the table," said the director of La Razon, Uri Ben Schmuel, in his opinion column.
"It's started changing," "the center", "For Peru without Poverty" and "Govern for the Poor and the Rich" were the headlines from La Primera, La República, El Popular y Diario 16.
The festivities for Humala coincided with the 190th anniversary celebration of the independence of Peru and continued Friday with a military parade led by the new head of state and ministers.