Former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo gears up for Peru’s 2011 presidential elections

Former President Alejandro Toledo said Sunday that he would “rise again in democracy” if his successor, Peru President Alan García, sells indigenous-owned land in the country’s Amazon region.

“If the President sells the native communities, with all due respect and in democracy, I shall raise my voice again,” Toledo told his supporters during an event to celebrate his political party’s 14th anniversary.

“Be careful not to cheat on the (indigenous) communities and not enact the law that repeals Legislative Decrees 1015 and 1073 because Peru is not up for sale,” said Toledo, in reference to Congress’ ratification of a congressional committee’s motion to repeal two land Amazon jungle development laws decreed by García.

“Peru is not for sale, and you don’t own this country,” he added. “You’re only a tenant (in the Government Palace), and you weren’t chosen to govern Peru to give it away to your business partners.”

For the past few months Toledo has repeatedly questioned García’s economic management of Peru and challenged the administration’s lauding of a report published by the National Statistics Institute last May purporting to show Peru’s poverty rate dropping more than 5 percentage points in 2007.

Toledo’s return to the political spotlight is widely viewed as a signal he plans to run for re-election in 2011.

Increasing food prices demonstrate that García is governing for the rich and not the poor, argued Toledo.

“When I left the government in 2006, with 1 sol (approximately $0,34) you could buy 10 breads,” said Toledo. “Now, with 1 sol you buy five… President Alan García (must) realize that Peru is much greater, much deeper, more generous and more warlike than the rich friends that surround him.”

García, a former socialist turned avid free trade advocate, used to express disapproval of the TLC and now uses it to rise in polls, argued Toledo.

“This treaty is the President García’s unacknowledged son,” Toledo said. “He didn’t want it before, and now he’s working it” to his advantage.

According to Garcia’s top Cabinet minister Jorge del Castillo, the former president made an “unusual demonstration of demagoguery with unequivocal electoral intentions” by criticizing the government without mentioning the causes for food price hikes, such as the elevated price of wheat on international markets.

“This is an irresponsibility,” said del Castillo in comments to official state daily Andina. “I could understand it if it came from a political agitator, but not from a person that has been President of the Republic and that knows perfectly well how things are.”

The former president threatened to take to the streets if the government does not promulgate the repeal of presidential decrees indigenous rights groups claim promote unrestricted oil exploration while stripping their full rights to control communal lands, argued del Castillo, but during his presidency Toledo presented a similar bill.

“Now he’s forgetting about the issue… with the pretension of generating protests that will destabilize democracy,” added del Castillo.

Toledo, a one-time shoe shine boy born in a poor Andean village, broke through poverty to attend Stanford University and become a World Bank economist and a leader of the opposition movement against ex-President Alberto Fujimori’s authoritarian regime. He pulled out of a runoff election against Fujimori in 2000, citing overwhelming evidence of election fraud, and led the “March of the Four Corners,” a massive protest march that signaled the end of Fujimori’s reign.

He also struck a chord with millions of indigenous and mixed-raced Peruvians who suffered discrimination because of their ethnicity and who had been traditionally excluded from Lima’s political mainstream.

But support for Toledo was short-lived and his popularity dropped as low as 11 percent in nationwide polls, at one point making him the least popular leader in Latin America.

Because his party won only 41 of a possible 120 congressional seats in 2001, Toledo was faced throughout his presidency with a hostile legislature that tried unsuccessfully to impeach him from office.His family also provided a constant source of political scandal and intrigue, with several siblings, nieces and nephews charged with everything from influence peddling and nepotism to voter fraud, rape and assalt. He also was plagued by media reports that he used cocaine, frolicked with prostitutes and abandoned a girl he fathered during an extramarital affair.

His government was debilitated by a constant reshuffling of personnel in key ministerial posts amid various scandals. In August 2005, Toledo’s Cabinet stepped down, following the lead of Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero who objected to the President’s support for coca legalization in Cuzco.

However, his administration is credited with laying the groundwork for a a free trade agreement with the United States that was signed into law after García took office.

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