Friday, May 17, 2013

BLOUIN: Peru’s Humala faces incompetence charges

Peru's Humala Faces Incompetence Charges
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Blouin News: Politics
May 17, 2013
Originally published:

In spite of Peru’s generally positive financial situation and economic forecast for the immediate future, President Ollanta Humala is having a difficult time governing the Andean nation. He is routinely charged with a lack of leadership skills, charges lent weight by the recent diplomatic crises between Peru and the governments of Ecuador and Venezuela — and by the resignation of his foreign minister Rafael Roncagliolo.
Humala, in fairness, had little to do directly with sparking Peru’s recent diplomatic incidents. On April 21, there was a bizarre incident in which the Ecuadorian ambassador to Peru, Rodrigo Riofrío, got into a violent argument with two Peruvian women at a supermarket in downtown Lima. Statements by those involved and video footage of the incident show that first the ambassador allegedly insulted the women, then the argument escalated when the Peruvians physically attacked the ambassador and his companion (a video of the fight is available here). The situation provoked a minor diplomatic incident, and in some kind of gentlemen’s agreement, both governments decided toreplace their ambassadors to each other’s countries.
Then there’s the Venezuela problem. Newly-minted president Nicolás Maduro has been trying to secure regional backing (he recently traveled to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay on a goodwill tour). Nevertheless, Peru had been ambivalent on whether to recognize Maduro or remain neutral. After the April election, when protests over allegations of voter fraud (including the voto asistido — assisted vote) were sparked by the minimal difference in votes between Maduro and the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, the Peruvian government called for an emergency meeting in Lima of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which ended in a show of support for Maduro. This was dented somewhat by Roncagliolo’s subsequent declaration that he wanted tolerance and greater dialogue between all Venezuelans; this statement in turn provoked the wrath of Maduro, who declared on May 3 that Roncagliolo should not get involved in Venezuelan domestic affairs and that “we [Venezuelans] do not care what the Peruvian minister thinks about Venezuela.”
Fast-forward twelve days: on May 15, Roncagliolo resigns his ministerial post in Lima. The official story is that he did so for “personal health reasons,” but the timing of the decision has many in Lima wondering if the health argument is fig-leaf for a favor — i.e. axing Roncagliolo — done by Humala for Maduro. That suspicion has now hit the press: on Friday May 17 the Peruvian daily El Comerciopublished an editorial questioning whether the now-former minister resigned because of the word war with Venezuela.
The recent problems with Quito and Caracas have hurt Humala’s image in his country as Peruvian opposition members have quickly taken advantage of the situation by arguing that the aforementioned diplomatic incidents, as well as Roncagliolo’s departure, were all signs of Humala’s unfitness as an executive. (Lourdes Flores Nano, a renowned Peruvian politician, went so far as to say that Humala is handled like a puppet.) According to a mid-April poll, Humala’s popularity is at around 51%, generally good for a Peruvian leader halfway into his presidency. The aforementioned foreign policy scandals will not hurt Humala in the short run but they will supply future ammo to his opponents. This could come back to hurt Humala and his wife, Nadine Heredia — who may herself run for the presidency in 2016. And charges of nepotism added to those of incompetence can be powerful political artillery indeed.

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