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Biography of Ollanta Humala Tasso

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Biography of Ollanta Humala Tasso

Ollanta Humala

Photo by Agência Brasil

Biography of Ollanta Humala Tasso:

Ollanta Humala is a Peruvian army officer and politician: he is the current President of Peru, having won a 2011 run-off election. He is considered a leftist, and has ties to other leftist politicians in Latin America.

Life Before Politics:

Humala was born on June 27, 1962, to Isaac Humala and Elena Tasso. He joined the army while in his teens and was soon embroiled in his nation’s conflict against the Shining Path insurgents. He was sent in the early 1980’s to the School of the Americas, a training program for promising Latin American officers organized by the United States military. According to Humala’s approved biography released through his political party, he became convinced that the Peruvian army’s way of fighting the insurgency – treating all rural people as potential revolutionaries – was dangerously counter-productive. All doubts aside, he continued to rise in the ranks of the Peruvian military.

Coup Attempt in 2000:

In 2000, the corrupt government of President Alberto Fujimori began to fall apart. Fujimori's close advisor, Vladimiro Montesinos, stood accused of several serious charges of corruption and abuse of power. On October 29, Humala (then a Lieutenant Colonel), joined by some other officers, arrested General Carlos Bardales Angulo, a close associate of Montesinos. After closing themselves up in a mining facility, they issued a call to the people of Peru to get rid of Fujimori and his corrupt administration. Fujimori abandoned Peru a few weeks later, and Humala negotiated his surrender with the new government. He was eventually cleared of all charges.

Antauro’s Coup:

In 2005, Ollanta’s brother Antauro, a fellow army officer who had been involved in the 2000 uprising against Fujimori, tried to overthrow the government of Alejandro Toledo. The coup fizzled and Antauro was taken into custody. Whether Ollanta knew of – or organized – the coup is cause for wide speculation in Peru. Jaime Bayly, a prominent Peruvian writer and journalist, claims to have proof that Ollanta (who was in South Korea at the time) organized the uprising, and many Peruvians believe him. At any rate, Ollanta swiftly distanced himself from the coup and from his brother, who is currently serving 25 years in prison for the revolt.

The 2006 Election:

In 2006, Humala organized his own political party, the Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) and ran for President. He is very popular among Peruvians of indigenous descent, and his anti-imperialism stance proved popular with a wide range of voters. He did very well, advancing to a run-off with candidate Alan Garcia. Humala ran as a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who helped fund Humala's political party and openly campaigned for him. This support may have backfired, however, as social ills such as crime skyrocketed in Venezuela. Humala lost the run-off election, earning roughly 47% of the popular vote.

2011 Election:

In 2011, Humala ran once again for President. His foe this time around was a familiar name, if not a face: Keiki Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori. Humala distanced himself from Chavez (although not too far) and hammered away at Peruvians’ fears of a return to the chaotic times and violence under Fujimori’s father. This proved a winning combination as Humala won a narrow election in June of 2011. Peruvian business interests, terrified over the prospect of Venezuelan-style socialism, had strongly supported Fujimori, and the Peruvian stock market sank 12% on the day after the election.

Humala’s Politics:

Humala ran on a platform of "integrated nationalism," which is understood as actively trying to include all of the various ethnic groups and social classes of Peru to forge a stronger nation. Peru continues to be an explosive mix of ethnicities, special interest groups and social classes, which will make achieving Humala’s vision challenging. His party is "anti-imperialist" and "latinamericanist," which means that he intends to find solutions to Peru's problems in political and economic unity among Latin American nations, as opposed to the USA and Europe. This puts him in line with other Latin American nationalists such as Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

Humala and Chavez:

Until his death, Hugo Chavez remained a very divisive figure among Latin Americans. Some saw him as a noble savior who stood up to the aggressive international politics of the United States, while others saw him as a blowhard who presided over a historical increase in crime and corruption while increasingly taking on dictatorial powers, stifling the judiciary and the press in the process. Humala's close association with Chavez was thus a double-edged sword. He distanced himself from Chavez during the 2011 Presidential campaign. In an interview, he said "We must make our own way. We believe that the Venezuelan model is not applicable for Peru."

President Humala:

As President, Humala will have to manage the expectations of the poor, who have always been his biggest supporters, particularly in the south. He will need to soothe the fears of Peru's business elite, who fear he will dismantle the economy, much as Chavez has done in Venezuela. He inherits a Peru that is relatively stable, both politically and economically, and during his 2011 campaign repeatedly promised not to rock the boat too much if elected. He has asserted that his political mentor is not Chavez, but Brazilian moderate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a well-respected statesman with great international stature.

Sources:

Ollanta Humala Tasso. A very detailed biography in Spanish from a Spain-based International Study Center.

Interview with Ollanta Humala

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