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Peru: The Leftist Threat to Prosperity – by Mary Anastasia O’Grady

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Presidential candidate Ollanta Humala’s party platform talks of nationalizing strategic ‘activities’ and ‘revising’ trade agreements.

If national socialist Ollanta Humala defeats center-right populist Keiko Fujimori in Peru’s presidential runoff election on June 5, Brazil’s Workers’ Party will deserve much of the credit. The implications for the region are alarming.

Mr. Humala is by no means a shoo-in. In the days just after his first-round victory with 30% of the vote, his numbers surged. But last week an Ipsos Apoyo poll showed his backing had dropped to 39% from 42%. Ms. Fujimori’s support rose to 38% from 36%. With 10% undecided, the race is now a statistical dead heat.

Even so Mr. Humala’s strong showing in a country with Peru’s improving economic profile requires an explanation. It can be found in Brazil.

The PT—as the Workers’ Party is known in Brazil because of its Portuguese initials—has spent more than two decades cultivating, organizing and orchestrating diverse sectors of Latin America’s extreme left. It is the founder of the São Paulo Forum, a conglomeration of nationalists, socialists and communists from around the region who, having watched the Berlin Wall come down, have banded together to work toward the revival of their totalitarian ideals.

Over the years fellow travelers have included Cuba, the Colombian terrorist group FARC and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. Now key party members are toiling behind the scenes in Peru to make Mr. Humala that country’s next president.

Peru is an urgent matter on the revolutionary radar screen because the circumstances for the poor there have been improving dramatically. Starting with the presidency of Keiko’s father, Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), successive governments have supported a more open economy and a stable currency. All sectors of society have benefited. Jaime de Althaus, Peruvian journalist and author of “The Capitalist Revolution in Peru” (2008, available in Spanish only), noted in an April 15 column in the Peruvian daily El Commercio that poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years. He also observed that in the last decade income for the poorest Peruvians has gone up almost twice as fast as for the richest.

Corruption is one explanation for discontent with the status quo. Yet Mr. Humala hardly seems the antidote. As an army officer in 2000 he led a military uprising against Mr. Fujimori and claimed he did it because the president was dictatorial and corrupt. Others who were close to the situation doubt those lofty motives. One skeptic is Marco Miyashiro, who was a high-ranking national policeman at the time. In April he called the attempted coup of 2000 nothing but a “show” designed to create a distraction so that spy chief Vladimir Montesinos could slip out of the country to evade prosecution for misdeeds.

In 2005, Mr. Humala was the Peruvian military attaché to Korea when his brother Antauro tried another coup, this time against president Alejandro Toledo. From Seoul, Mr. Ollanta phoned in to a radio station in Lima to say that he supported his brother’s actions. Four policemen were killed.

This erratic and violent past is not the only problem. His party’s 198-page nationalist platform (dated December 2010) calls economic liberalism “predatory” and proposes to nationalize strategic “activities.” It says that “the exploitation [of natural resources], taken advantage of generally by a foreign economic minority, cannot continue.” It also pledges to “revise” free trade agreements that “oppose the exercise of our sovereign will.” In short, Mr. Humala dislikes the policies that have served Peru well in recent years.

Those views, along with Mr. Humala’s links to Hugo Chávez, meant that the candidate needed an image makeover if he hoped to get elected. Enter the PT. Acting on its advice, he now claims Brazilian PT president Lula da Silva as his role model.

The trouble is, wrote Peruvian journalist Enrique Chavez in the April 7 issue of the weekly Caretas, Mr. da Silva was not the one “designated” by the PT to advise Mr. Humala. That job, Mr. Chavez explained, belongs to Valter Pomar, a director of the São Paulo Forum and a man known as “hard left” inside the PT.

The journalist noted it was Mr. Pomar who appeared beside Mr. Humala early this year to pronounce the PT’s support for his candidacy. What is more, Mr. Pomar “was key in installing the ‘Brazilian command’ in the campaign, and offering important recommendations to purify the image of the comandante.” Mr. Humala now wears a tie, talks of “love” for Peru, and is photographed holding rosary beads.

So what does Mr. Pomar have in mind for Peru? Mr. Chavez cites a March 2010 interview with the “left-wing website Alerta Perú” in which the Brazilian laments that Venezuela has not had a real revolution. “Our countries continue suffering external interference and the resistance of local elites which are very powerful.” He continued: “In many countries we have not yet achieved victory: this is the case in Colombia, Mexico and of course Peru. If in those three countries, that are so important, there are no leftist, progressive or nationalist governments, there will not be a complete change.”

Peruvians are forewarned.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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