Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the Peruvian former secretary general of the United Nations, publicly lamented Feb. 28 that the hundreds of US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks have become an issue the presidential campaign underway in his country. “It is embarrassing that information from WikiLeaks has become part of the campaign, because it contains foreign opinions, not from Peruvians,” he said. “Candidates should debate with ideas and not verbal attacks. We hope that candidates will calm themselves during this month.” (Living in Peru, Feb. 28)
Washington also apologized to Peru for the impact of the leaked cables—one of which, written by former US ambassador James Curtis Struble, included the following description of President Alan García: “One aspect on which there is near universal agreement is that García has a colossal ego, which can blind him to the merits of good ideas and alternatives that he himself has not generated.” García said he was not offended by the cable, but also said the documents reflect “low-quality diplomacy” based on “cocktail gossip.” (Living in Peru, Dec. 29)
But the cables seem to indicate a US tilt to García’s ruling Peruvian Aprista Party (PAP). One cable charges that García’s more populist rivals Alejandro Toledo (Perú Posible) and Ollanta Humala (Nationalist Party) have “exploited the maritime border dispute to appeal to the population’s nationalist sentiments.” This is reference to Peru’s long-simmering border conflict with Chile. (Living in Peru, Feb. 19)
One cable from the 2006 presidential race indicated that PAP director Jorge del Castillo met with a US embassy official to discuss the best strategy to avoid a victory by Ollanta Humala in the second round. The embassy official apparently urged del Castillo to convince challenger Lourdes Flores Nano (National Unity) to drop out of the three-way run-off and throw her support to García. That was exactly what happened. (Perú21, Feb. 13)
With García constitutionally barred from running for a second consecutive term, his PAP is fielding no candidate this time—sparking public speculation from Toledo that García intends to be president again in 2016. (RPP, Feb. 28) The leading candidates are now former president Toldeo, former Lima mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio (Naitonal Solidarity), and lawmaker Keiko Fujimori (Fuerza 2011), the daughter of imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori. (Reuters, Feb. 21) Trailing behind the rest is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (Alianza por el Gran Cambio), a former World Bank economist who served in Toledo’s cabinet—unflatteringly dubbed “El Gringo.” (Reuters, Feb. 22) The elections are scheduled for April 10.
The cables reveal deep concern about the growing power of indigenous movements in Peru. One March 2008 cable notes the role of former guerilla fighter Hugo Blanco in coordinating that year’s wave of indigenous protests:
Blanco is an unaffiliated radical leader that led the effort to block roads in Anta Province outside Cusco city, according to local contacts. Blanco is a prominent anti-systemic actor who was jailed for leading an indigenous insurgency in Cusco in the 1960s. He now publishes a newspaper called “La Lucha Indigena” (The Indigenous Battle).