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Monday, 9 April, 2001, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
Garcia: Peru's comeback kid
Alan Garcia celebrates early results
Garcia: playing the elder-statesman role
Most Peruvians remember Alan Garcia's 1985-1990 presidency as an absolute disaster - but that does not appear to have deterred them from voting for him.

Mr Garcia's administration, succeeded by that of the disgraced President Alberto Fujimori, was marked by hyperinflation, food queues, allegations of fraud and an upsurge in guerrilla violence.


I don't say I haven't made mistakes. Certainly I have, but I accept them and have corrected them

Alan Garcia
The left-wing lawyer readily admits he made mistakes, and says he has learned his lesson the hard way.

In an election campaign characterised by aggressive tactics and the notorious "vladivideos" - in which many politicians are apparently shown being bribed by Peru's former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos - his message seems to have got through.

In the eyes of the voters Mr Garcia, 51, has managed to re-invent himself as the elder statesman.

'Peru's Kennedy'

Charismatic and populist, Alan Garcia often resorted to popular poetry when outlining his plans - such as the promise of new jobs, improved salaries and cheap credits for farmers.

In an attempt to banish memories of his free-spending policies, he has also promised to maintain macro-economic stability.

But many investors, both Peruvian and foreign, have expressed their doubts. And, given Mr Garcia's track record, it is hardly surprising.

Alpaca farmer
Garcia has pledged cheap credits for farmers
Dubbed "Latin America's Kennedy", Mr Garcia was swept into office at the age of 36, the region's youngest president.

With his law degree from Lima's San Marcos University and the political science doctorate he earned at Madrid's Complutense University, he was for many the "president of hope".

The illusion was short-lived. When his term ended in 1990, Peru was bankrupt, with inflation running at over 7,000%. Queues for basic necessities such as bread and sugar became part of daily life.

Soon after he left office, he was charged with taking bribes and kickbacks as a head of state.

In 1992, Mr Garcia fled the country, when troops were sent to arrest him after President Fujimori shut down Congress and imposed martial law.

Disillusion

He only returned to Peru last January, once the Supreme Court annulled the corruption charges against him following a recommendation by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

His critics say his impressive comeback can be put down to voters' short-term memory, while his supporters say his only crime was not to realise the financial consequences of trying to improve the lives of all Peruvians.

But most analysts say Mr Garcia's charisma and suave manner have played an important role with an electorate deeply disillusioned with the current crop of politicians.

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See also:

09 Apr 01 | Americas
Peru poll set for run-off
20 Nov 00 | Americas
Fujimori: Decline and fall
02 Mar 01 | Americas
Peru court summons Fujimori
07 Feb 01 | Americas
New bribe claim in Peru election
28 Jan 01 | Americas
Exiled Garcia back in Peru
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