Alan Garcia is back, whether Peruvians and outsiders like it or not. Following his strong showing in the presidential runoff election in 2001, he has confirmed his position as the leader of the political opposition and the most likely winner of the next presidential elections. He showed that he is the most astute and wily politician currently active in the country.
Garcia has kept the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (ARPA) kicking and alive, even though many expected it to collapse. In the November regional and municipal elections, his party won 12 of 25 departmental presidencies. APRA even won in Arequipa where it had always been a minority. It is currently the only real organized political force in the country. We are going to be dealing with Garcia for the next couple of decades.
In 1985, Alan Garcia was swept into the presidency after the first round of voting and also had a majority in Congress. The situation was dramatic, with few international reserves and inflation eating away at living standards. Within months, Garcia turned around the widespread pessimism and set the government into action. It even seemed that Sendero was on the defensive. Garcia had created a unique opportunity to pull the country back from the brink.
Instead, Garcia squandered the opportunity and gave the country a good shove towards the abyss. Fatal flaws began to appear in his presidential style and policies.
I am glad that I no longer have to be "objective" as a journalist covering a story. Now I can say that the Garcia presidency was a catastrophe for Peru and 90% of the blame must fall on Garcia's shoulder.
What were the most glaring failures of his five years in office.
Resultado Económico de la Gestión del Dr. Alan García: 1985-1990: a comparative list of promises and results.
Garcia said that he was sticking up for the poor and the underprivileged, but when he had 2 million percent inflation during his watch, the poor were the worst to suffer. Inflation was 87.7% in 1985 and 7,649% in 1990. By draining the government of every last cent of income and reserves, he left the next government -- Alberto Fujimori -- no other option but to go running into the arms of the IMF, World Bank and the international financial community.
Garcia's failure was compounded by the disgraceful performance of APRA. It had had waited fifty years to gain control of the government. Haya de la Torre had died in 1979. Garcia revived the party and opened it up to new influences, but by the end, APRA was leaving in shame and scandals of corruption.
Perhaps, we should be more forgiving and understanding of Garcia. From many whispered reports early in his presidency sifted news that Garcia had undergone a "sleep" treatment a few years before for a "nervous condition." That he had to take something called lithium. Garcia's political enemies suspected that Garcia was crazy. His nickname was Caballo Loco (Crazy Horse). Now, looking back, it seems clear that his frantic pace of activity and sudden withdrawals betrayed his condition. Garcia was bipolar or manic depressive. This condition explained his erratic behavior. If Garcia takes his medication (and there's a lot better psych meds than there were 15 years ago), he should be able to lead a productive life.
During the 2001 election campaign, Garcia has been pretending that nothing much happened when he was president. And if something bad did happened, he has learned from his mistakes. At least some of the electorate is too young to remember those days. For everyone's benefit, I am inclosing links to my news stories from then.
Leader of Peruvian opposition sets sights on a higher target , The Globe and Mail, March 14, 1983
Peru Sets Austerity Measures; Price Rises, The Washington Post, August 10, 1990
His debt-strapped nation tottering, Peru's new leader flouts convention , The Globe and Mail, September 7, 1985
State of Emergency Is Imposed in Lima Fresh Guerrilla Attacks Blamed, Washington Post, February 08, 1986
Garcia faces the military, The Times of London, July 3, 1986
Mutiny in Peru's jails casts pall on progress of Garcia's first year, Washington Post, July 28, 1986
Peru Raids Reflect Frustration - Garcia Seeks Ways to End Insurgency, Washington Post, February 15, 1987
Peru's President Plans Bank Nationalization, Washington Post, July 29, 1987
Peru Takes Control of 10 Banks, Financial Institutions, Washjington Post, July 29, 1987