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Alan Garcia Takes Power Again as Peru's President


Alan Garcia, who was president of Peru from 1985 to 1990, has been sworn in again as the leader of the Andean nation. His previous administration is blamed for running the country into economic ruin, but he has promised not to repeat the mistakes of his past. In Miami, Lisa Ferdinando examines the situation in Peru and the issues facing the new administration.

The 57-year-old Garcia has pledged to fight corruption and poverty, and his second chance at office comes after years of strong economic growth under outgoing President Alejandro Toledo.

Mr. Garcia won in a run-off in June against nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala, a former military officer who was endorsed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

During his previous rule, Mr. Garcia's policies triggered hyperinflation and led to food shortages, and amid the economic chaos, guerrillas were waging a terrorist campaign.

Susan Purcell, who is the director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami, says she believes Mr. Garcia was elected in great part because he was the least objectionable of the two remaining candidates. But she says there is reason to be optimistic.

"Garcia knows what he has to do," she said. "He's an extremely capable and quite charismatic politician. He does want to change the legacy, the very negative legacy, of his first term into a more positive legacy for the history books."

Mr. Garcia now faces the task of reaching out to the country's sizable poor population, particularly in indigenous communities, where support for his political rival was strong.

"The real challenge ahead is to continue the kinds of macroeconomic policies that have led to growth and if possible enhance the rate of growth in Peru, but at the same time begin to address the social problems, especially unemployment and poverty, and especially in areas in the country that are heavily indigenous, such as the southern and middle highlands regions," said Peter DeShazo, the director of the America's Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"I think he was a lesser evil," said one man who was attending a Peruvian Independence Day celebration in Miami with his friends. He went on to say that the people do not know who they elected.

But across town, another man, who runs a Peruvian restaurant, had praise for Mr. Garcia and Mr. Toledo, although he says Mr. Toledo neglected the poor.

"Excellent president by the macroeconomic, but he forgot the poor people inside Peru," he said.

Luis Morales is the president of Peruvian Civic Unity, a Florida-based group that works on immigration issues. He says Peruvians want social change.

"They expect from Mr. Alan Garcia improvements in education, in health care, and lower poverty and improvements in jobs in Peru," he said.

But he says, considering Mr. Garcia's track record, he will just wait to see if the comeback president really does make good on all his promises.

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