The Peruvian election will be decided by a presidential runoff vote between the leading candidate Ollanta Humala and most probably Alan Garcia who received 24.7% of votes. Garcia's contender for the presidential runoff is former Congresswoman Lourdes Flores who received 23.6% of the votes. Alan Garcia was president from 1985 to 1990 (aged only 36 when he took power, he was dubbed as the "Latin America Kennedy"). His administration was disastrous. During his time in power the per capita annual income of Peruvians fell to $720 and Peru's GDP dropped 20% (by the end of his term, national reserves were a negative $900 million). Furthermore, he was charged with multiple counts of corruption and human right abuse, leading to an increase in terrorist activities by the Shinning Path. Astonishingly after living eight years in exile he returned to Peru in 2001 to run for president, obtaining 48% of the vote losing marginally to Alejandro Toledo. It is rumoured Garcia and his APRA party cut a deal with Alberto Fujimori in the 1990 election, backing him in return for impunity (preventing Mario Vargas Llosa from winning the election). It is truly a matter of Dark Matter Politics when a politician with the legacy of Alan Garcia is even considered for power again.
Without a doubt, even to this day, there is a strong legacy of caudillismo in South American politics. Caudillismo is a cultural phenomenon that first appeared during the early 19th century in revolutionary South America, as a type of strong leader with a charismatic personality and enough of a populist program of generic future reforms to gain broad sympathy, at least at the outset, among the common people. The history of South American leadership is plagued by this thinking. Hopefully the Peruvian people will begin to shed some of that thinking and not place Garcia in power once again. On the other hand, Ollanta Humala, a former army lieutenant colonel is an uncertain choice. Humala has tapped into a powerful vein of discontent among Peru's poor majority with a populist message inspired by the 1968-1975 left-wing military dictatorship of General Juan Velasco (another caudillo) promising heavy state intervention in Peru's free-market economy and to strip political power from a European-descended elite. The potential ascension of Humala, while in line with the caudillo legacy, follows a dramatic shift and change in the leadership of the region.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Lucio Gutierrez (replaced by Alfredo Palacio following demonstrations against his administration) in Ecuador all share a leftist populist approach, that aims to balance elements of free market economics with control of national interests and resources. Kirchner, Bachelet and Gutierrez are considered the most moderate of all leaders (moderate leftist), partly due to their personal beliefs, the political outlook of their countries and their "lack of anti-American rhetoric". This dramatic shift in South American politics has Washington very concerned and China elated. During the past three years China has invested billions in the region (mainly in Venezuela as it provides China with a vast and alternative supply of crude oil) to establish its own economic sphere of influence.
South America is currently living a dramatic political transformation. The most challenging and promising transformation will be an end to the caudillo mentality; being replaced with leadership that is truly dedicated to the needs of the people and not the popular majority.