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Peru's Garcia Takes the Man's Way Out
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Peru’s former charismatic president, Alan García, once hailed ‘the John F. Kennedy of Latin America,’ killed himself with a pistol this past Wednesday. What a tragedy and waste of a brilliant man.

In 1985, I flew to Lima to interview García for New York’s Wall Street Journal. He had just assumed office; I believe I was the first non-Latin American journalist to interview him.
García was successor to the nationalist firebrand Haya de la Torre, founder of the militant APRA party, whose aim was to nationalize foreign holdings across the Americas and send the Yankees home.

Lima, Peru’s capital of 9.8 million, was founded by the Conquistador Pizarro in 1535, almost a full century before my own hometown, New York City. Peru’s capital was dark, dusty, cold and spooky. Millions of native Quechua-speaking Peruvians had flocked down to Lima from the impoverished high Andes. The streets teemed with beggars and pickpockets.

The crime situation in Lima was so bad that as I was being driven to the president’s palace by his chief of staff, he warned me to remove my watch and glasses. Why? “We can be attacked even on the steps of the palace,” he replied.

I was finally introduced to Alan García, the new president. He couldn’t speak English; my Spanish was awful. But we found we were both graduates of French-speaking universities, he the Sorbonne in Paris and I the University of Geneva. So we settled into comfortable French, which relaxed the amiable president and me. I quite liked him.

Our interview was his first chance to address Americans, and, notably, Wall Street. Peru was up to it ears in foreign debt and unable to exploit its vast minerals industry without new foreign loans. The country’s 19.5 million people were seething with misery, poverty and hopelessness.

Up in the high Andes, rebellion was underway, led by two indigenous Marxist outfits, the Túpac Amaru and larger Shining Path. The latter crazies adopted Maoism and actually sought to turn Peru into a second Stalinist Albania! Nutty as they were, the Shining Path wild men inflicted grave damage on Peru until the next president, the iron-fisted Japanese Peruvian Alberto Fujimori, crushed them. (Fujimori is currently in prison for murder and kidnapping).

In the course of our interview, I got García to admit that, yes, he was a socialist, but of the soft European type. After I reported García’s comment in the Wall Street Journal a big furor erupted in the US, where few knew anything about Peru.
Headlines: ‘García admits he is a socialist’. There were hysterical claims Peru was to be a beachhead for Moscow and Havana. All nonsense of course, but red alarm bells went off in Washington and New York and the bankers took fright.

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I felt badly. My editors were looking for sensations, not factual news. What García was, in fact, was a poor economic administrator and an academic ivory tower dreamer with no idea how business worked. Under him, inflation hit 7,500%.
He was a forerunner to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

At the end of his first term in 1990, García left in semi-disgrace and went to hide out at his old sociology faculty in Paris. In my view, sociology is the biggest quackery in academia except for gender studies. Phrenology is more reliable. García and I discussed the tedious works of French sociologist Émile Durkheim well into the night.

In 2006, Garcia managed to get himself re-elected in Peru, this time promising financial rectitude, honesty, and sound economic strategies. His successors were deposed or jailed for corruption. Garcia started well but soon got himself into a peck of trouble.

The principal source was Latin America’s largest engineering/energy conglomerate, the Brazil-based leviathan Odebrecht that ignited the region’s largest ever corruption scandal. The Brazilian firm paid out at least $788 million in bribes to heads of state and politicians in 12 Latin nations to secure lucrative business contracts.

So far, the monster scandal, known in Brazil as ‘Lava Jato’ (car wash) has brought down former presidents of Brazil, Collor de Mello, Dilma Rousseff, Lula da Silva; three Peruvian former presidents, and leaders in Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and Dominican Republic. The Mother of all bribery cases.

Alan García was facing arrest in this scandal. As Peruvian police arrived, he shot himself in the head and died soon after – the true man’s way out. He was a charming man and I will miss him. Adiós, el presidente!

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Peru 
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  1. yes sociology is quakery. Because the scientific attempt to understand large and long term social movements and tie them with individual psychology and the economics of social relations is quakery.

    I quite enjoyed the read but always knowing that this author has absolutely no idea

    • Replies: @Oleaginous Outrager
  2. Republic says:

    Lots of corrupt politicians in in Peru, two former Presidents of Peru are currently in prison,must be a world record

    As Peruvian police arrived, he shot himself in the head and died soon after – the true man’s way out

    A real man does steal from his people. That what traitors do, in fact in the 19th century,an arrested traitor would be given a loaded pistol and left in a room as a courtesy. Maybe the Police in Lima did that.

    An innocent man would fight in court.

  3. Nutty as they were, the Shining Path wild men inflicted grave damage on Peru until the next president, the iron-fisted Japanese Peruvian Alberto Fujimori, crushed them. (Fujimori is currently in prison for murder and kidnapping).

    Apparently, the iron-fisted Japanese understood what it takes to govern Peru better than the amiable Iberian.

    Interestingly, Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez was 6’4″. Truly an Iberian of the Iberians!

    Bless their well-meaning, social democratic hearts, but haven’t the conquistadors done enough to that continent? Or are they the only thing keeping South America from turning into Sub-Saharan Africa?

    • Replies: @Ragno
  4. ATBOTL says:

    Sociologists have been useful in collecting data despite the uselessness of most of their theories.

  5. Anonymous[643] • Disclaimer says:

    Quibble: the last sentence should be just “Adiós, presidente” (no “el”)

  6. @nicholas nicola

    Of course it’s not quakery, because it’s SCIENCE!

    The author’s not the one lacking any idea.

  7. Ragno says:
    @The Anti-Gnostic

    Haven’t the conquistadors done enough to that continent? Or are they the only thing keeping South America from turning into Sub-Saharan Africa?

    Since we all know the answer to that multiple-choice’r, I’m just gonna touch my nose meaningfully.

  8. The “man’s way out” is not shooting oneself in the temple. The man’s way out is whatever happens after you walk into your enemies’ home or workplace and open fire.

  9. anon19 says:

    But Peru is still a basketcase.

  10. I thought a man’s way out was transitioning.

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