Ollanta Humala was elected President of Peru on June 5, 2011. The one sure loser in this election was the United States, whose ambassador, Rose Likins, scarcely hid her open campaigning for Humala’s opponent in the second round, Keiko Fujimori. What was at stake in this crucial election in Latin America?
Peru is a key country in the geopolitics of South America for a number of reasons: its size, its heritage as the locus of the Inca empire, its locus as a fount of the Amazonia River, its ports on the Pacific, and its recent history as the site of a major struggle between nationalist forces and pro-American elites.
In 1924, Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre, a Peruvian intellectual and Marxist – a quite unorthodox Marxist – founded the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), which was intended to be a pan-American anti-imperialist organization. APRA flourished in Peru, although it was severely repressed. What was original about APRA, unlike most left movements in the Americas, was its understanding that the majority of Peru’s peasantry were indigenous Quechua-speaking peoples who had been systematically excluded from political participation and cultural rights. After 1945, APRA began to lose some of its radical edge but still had a strong popular base. Only the death of Haya de la Torre prevented his election as President in 1980.