On 4 June, Peru holds its presidential runoff.
The current head of state, Alejandro Toledo, cannot stand for a second successive term, but he is quietly backing Alan Garcia, who was President from 1985 to 1990.
Garcia’s opponent is Ollanta Humala, an ally of Venezuela’s leftwing leader Hugo Chavez. Humala has promised to redistribute Peru’s mineral wealth and, like Chavez, he opposes free-trade agreements with the US.
EuroNews caught up with President Toledo at the recent EU-Latin America summit in Vienna.
Do you think that after years of market-oriented reforms, your country could now change direction and follow the path of Bolivia and Venezuela?
If we are not able to reduce the number of people living in poverty, poverty could undermine democracy. Moreover, if we aren5;t able to significantly reduce poverty we will create a favourable climate for short-term, easy to sell populism7; And this populism is like a one night party that will turn into a funeral7; and the price of the funeral will be paid by poor people. Because of that we need sustainable economic growth, as a means and not as a final goal. And we will use the advantages of that growth to redefine the social architecture of our continent, to reduce poverty.
You have just said that people have always paid. Do you think that it’s time to make foreign investors pay, rather than the people?
You can5;t seriously reduce poverty by handing out fish, you can do it only by guaranteeing poor people the right to learn to fish. Economic growth to redefine the social architecture of our countries is needed, but for such economic growth, you also need private, national and foreign investment. But to favour such investment, clear ground rules are needed: economic stability, political stability, and legal stability. I don5;t know anything more fickle than money, it goes wherever there5;s a climate favourable to investment. And we are competing in the world for investment capital. Without investment there is no growth, without growth there is no employment, without employment there is no income, either personal or fiscal.
Why is it that despite the efforts that your government has undoubtedly made, the Peruvian population is dissatisfied?
Well I have reached a very low level of popularity, 11% or 10%, because I5;ve decided to manage the economy with a sense of responsibility, to sow seeds. When you have to pay the price of the seed, of the fertilizer, of the water7; caring for the crop is pricely before harvest time comes around. I paid a price, but now, according to yesterday5;s news, I5;ve reached a 54% rating, four times as much as one month ago. I don5;t say it triumphantly, I say this with humility. The region can5;t afford the luxury of frivolity in power. Governing requires sacrifice and vision. You can’t have an isolated world view. And if oil is your competitive advantage, God bless you, but those who do not have oil must sell what they do have. In the case of Peru, it must sell agricultural products or tourism in order to generate income as well as create employment.
Negotiations between the EU and the Andean Community with a view to a political and trade agreement are starting. Don5;t you think that first of all the Andean Community must resolve some important political problems?
The Incan Empire, Simon Bolivar and San Martín were all integrators and they were all much more important than current presidents. I will disappear, as will Evo Morales, as will Hugo Chavez. But the concept of integration remains. That’s why we came to Vienna. I was the first indigenous person on the continent to be democratically elected president in 500 years. That brought with it great responsibility. I think that we are reducing distances and that we have complementary economies. We are looking for new markets. We want to find a place on Spanish and other European plates for our asparagus, our mangos, our grapefruits, our avocados, our lemons, our paprikas. And yes, we are ready to import manufactured products from the European Union.