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Looking back: Five years of Alan Garcia
July 27, 2011
After his second five-year term as president, Alan García will return to civilian life on Thursday. During his tenure, García has led a country experiencing great change, with unprecedented economic growth and, simultaneously, signficant challenges. It has been an interesting five years, and opinions about García's management fall across a wide spectrum. On this, García's last full day in office, we look back at the highs and lows of his tenure.
During García's term in office, Peru's economy grew as fast as just about any in the world. It peaked in 2010, when the economy grew at nearly 9%. The engines driving the growth were high prices for Peru's mineral exports and skyrocketing foreign investment, but everything from tourism to retail grew during García's second administration.
|The Camisea natural gas plant. (Photo: Peru.com)|
Going hand-in-hand with the economic growth in Peru was a reduction in poverty. In 2006, García inherited a country with a 48% poverty rate. He managed to cut this rate by 14% during his term in office, one of the sharpest reductions in the world during this time.
When Alan García's government retires from the scene, it will have left a tangible legacy in Peru. The government went on a building bender, constructing thousands of miles of new highways, electricity lines, and other public works. The most visible legacies will be the new National Stadium and the Lima Metro, which García actually started during his first administration.
|The new Lima metro. (Photo: Andina)|
During Alan García's term in office, Peru was drawn even more tightly into the global community. Free trade agreements were signed with a number of countries in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere. Closer to home, Peru's long-frosty relationship with neighboring Ecuador warmed considerably, and the two countries settled their maritime border dispute.
The long-delayed reconstruction of Pisco
On August 15th, 2007, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale struck the Ica region. 519 people were killed in the quake and nearly 60,000 homes were destroyed. While García pledged support for reconstruction, damage still remains in Pisco and other cities of the region, and many people have yet to move into reconstructed homes.
|Pisco after the earthquake in 2007. (Photo: LivinginPeru.com archives)|
While Peru's economy bounded ahead during García's tenure, not everyone benefited, and disputes over land and mining exploded into violent social conflict. The most dramatic case occurred in the Amazonian community of Bagua, in June, 2009. A series of laws which opened up land for exploration by oil and gas companies sparked a conflict between local indigenous communities and police, which left dozens dead. In 2011, conflicts over mining concessions in Puno led to rioting by members of the local Aymara and Quechua communities, and five people were killed.
|The violent confrontation between police and protesters in Bagua. (Photo: RPP)|
In 2008, García's first cabinet was rocked by the so-called Petroaudios scandal, in which members of his government and party were implicated in helping a Norwegian mining company win contracts. Amid street protests, García's prime minister, Jorge del Castillo, was forced to resign. García appointed a new cabinet.
The lighter moments
In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, most politicians have decided to keep their personalities in check and stick to their script. Not Alan García. The man has never been afraid to speak his mind or to wear his heart on his sleeve, which has led to some interesting moments over the last five years.
García has publicly speculated that former president Alejando Toledo had a “psychosexual obsession” with him, discussed the ghosts that inhabit the Government Palace, and talked about spending forty nights sleeping in the ruins of Machu Picchu while dancing samba and singing folks songs. And this has all been in just the past three months.
Alan García has never had qualms about getting a little funky on the dance floor. For example:
While he can't match incoming Culture Minister Susana Baca's range, García's singing is nothing to sneeze at. The president is not at all shy about breaking into song, doing so at many public events.
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