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García Pérez, Alan (1949–)

García Pérez, Alan (1949–)

Alan García Pérez was the president of Peru from 1985 to 1990 and again beginning in 2006. Born in Lima to middle-class parents active in the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA; or Partido Aprista Peruano [Peruvian Aprista Party], PAP) and seven when his father was released from political detention, García was active in APRA party politics from an early age. He earned a law degree from Peru's Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, a doctorate in political science from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and a sociology degree from the Sorbonne. He won election to the Constituent Assembly in 1978, to the Chamber of Deputies in 1980, and the presidency in 1985, becoming, at thirty-six, Latin America's youngest chief executive.

Despite a promising start, by most accounts García's first presidency was a disaster. His economic reforms foundered after an ill-advised bank nationalization in 1987, and his efforts to stem the advance of the Shining Path insurgency met a similar fate following a prison massacre of some 270 guerrilla inmates by police and military in June 1986. Increased political violence, rapid economic deterioration, and hyperinflation marked his last three years in office. Forced into exile after his successor, Alberto Fujimori, staged a self-coup in April 1992, he spent almost nine years in Colombia and France before Peru's supreme court ruled that the statute of limitations for corruption charges brought against him in the early 1990s had run out.

Restored to the good graces of APRA, which had expelled him in 1994, García returned to Peru in 2001 after Fujimori's fall. He ran for president again but narrowly lost in the runoff. As head of APRA once more, he was selected as its presidential candidate for the April 2006 elections. In a field of twenty in the first round, García finished second—barely besting Lourdes Flores Nano of the National Union (UN) with 24.3 percent to her 23.8 percent—thus qualifying for the June runoff against the first-round winner, populist reformer Ollanta Humala of the Union for Peru (UPP), who received 30.6 percent of the vote. In a particularly vituperative campaign, García's more polished rhetoric and political acumen, combined with the public's fear of what they saw as Humala's radicalism as well as his open support by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, won the day (53% of the valid vote for García, 47% for Humala).

As of 2008 it remained to be seen whether García's second presidency will be able to overcome the dark legacy of his first. Without an APRA majority in the unicameral congress (36 of 120 seats, with UPP holding 45) and with the country sharply divided politically between the coast and the north, which supported García, and the central and southern highlands, which backed Humala, effective governance will be a major challenge.

See alsoPeru, Political Parties: Peruvian Aprista Party (PAP/APRA); Peru, Revolutionary Movements: Shining Path.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Crabtree, John. Peru under García: An Opportunity Lost. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992.

Partida Aprista Peruano. Official Web site. Available from http://www.apra.org.pe.

                                   David Scott Palmer

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