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Archive for Sunday, July 29, 2001

Peru salutes its new president

Stanford-educated Alejandro Toledo is country’s first freely elected leader of Indian descent

July 29, 2001

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— Alejandro Toledo, Peru's first freely elected president of Indian descent, was sworn into office Saturday, promising to remain true to his roots and govern for the nation's poor.

Toledo's assumption of the presidency seals the former shoeshine boy's remarkable rise and completes Peru's return to democracy after a decade of authoritarian rule by disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori.

Peru President Alejandro Toledo, left, gives bread to a girl in a
school in a shantytown in Lima. Toledo, Peru's first freely elected
president of Indian descent, was sworn into office Saturday,
promising to remain true to his roots and govern for the nation's
poor majority.

Peru President Alejandro Toledo, left, gives bread to a girl in a school in a shantytown in Lima. Toledo, Peru's first freely elected president of Indian descent, was sworn into office Saturday, promising to remain true to his roots and govern for the nation's poor majority.

"My government will never again permit the dignity of the poor to be stolen through political manipulation," Toledo told the packed Congress.

Lawmakers, judges, ministers and more than two dozen foreign dignitaries, including 11 Latin American presidents, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, cheered when Toledo took the oath of office "for the poor of Peru."

He accepted the red-and-white sash relinquished by interim President Valentin Paniagua, the former head of Congress who assumed the presidency eight months ago after lawmakers voted to remove Fujimori on constitutional grounds of moral unfitness.

In a separate ceremony, Toledo swore in his Cabinet, led by U.S.-linked technocrats to steer Peru's economy out of its three-year slump, in part by lowering taxes to encourage consumer spending and business investment.

He named Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former investment banker in the United States, as finance minister, and Roberto Danino, an expert in international corporate transactions who worked for years in Washington, as prime minister.

Toledo, 55, was elected last month in a close runoff election against former President Alan Garcia.

An economist who overcame poverty to earn a doctorate from Stanford University, Toledo capitalized on his Indian features during the election campaign to appeal to Peruvians, most of whom have native roots. His aides dubbed him Pachacutec, after a 15th-century Inca emperor.

He pulled himself out of a presidential runoff vote last year he claimed Fujimori had rigged and joined the opposition to Fujimori's autocratic regime, enduring smear campaigns, tear gas and death threats.

Fujimori fled in November to Japan, his parents' homeland, as corruption scandals involving his ex-intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, ended his 10-year rule. Japan granted him citizenship.

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