Alejandro Toledo Manrique (born 28 March 1946) is the current President of Peru. He was elected in 2001, after leading the opposition against Alberto Fujimori, who held the presidency from 1990 to 2000. Toledo is married to the Belgian anthropologist Eliane Karp.
Toledo was one of sixteen children of a family of Indian campesinos in the small town of Cabana, province of Pallasca, department of Ancash. He grew up in Chimbote, a city on Peru's northern coast. His father was a bricklayer and his mother was a fishmonger. As a child, he worked as a shoeshine boy.
Toledo studied at the local state school, G.U.E. San Pedro. At age 16, with the guidance of members of the Peace Corps, Toledo enrolled at the University of San Francisco on a one-year scholarship. He completed his bachelor's degree in economics by obtaining a partial soccer scholarship and working part-time pumping gas. Later on, he completed his Ph.D in economics and human resources at Stanford University. He then became a professor of Economics in the Universidad del Pacifico in Peru.
Over the past 20 years, Toledo has worked as a consultant for various international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). He has also been a regular professor at ESAN, Peru's leading Business School. From 1991 to 1994, he was an affiliated researcher in the field of international development at the Harvard Institute for International Development. Toledo was also guest professor at the University of Waseda and the Japan Foundation in Tokyo.
Among Toledo's publications are works on economic growth and on structural reforms. However, his latest book, Las Cartas sobre la Mesa, describes his political career which led him to found the party Peru Possible.
Toledo entered politics as an independent candidate for the presidency in the 1995 election, in which Alberto Fujimori was ultimately re-elected. He founded the Peru Possible party in 1999 and declared his intent to run in the 2000 election. Despite a constitutional ban on his serving a third term, Fujimori was once again a candidate in 2000. Toledo was nicknamed El Cholo and Fujimori, El Chino. The incumbent defeated Toledo, amid widespread allegations of electoral fraud. Toledo petitioned to have the election annulled, but in November 2000, amid growing allegations of fraud and corruption within his administration, Fujimori fled to Japan, where he claimed Japanese citizenship and officially resigned the presidency.
After the fall of Fujimori, the president of the Peruvian Congress, Valentín Paniagua, became interim president and called for new elections on May 29 2001. Toledo won after a close run-off election with former president Alan García of the APRA party. His margin of victory was slim (52.5% vs 47.5%), particularly in light of Garcia's largely repudiated earlier presidential term (1985 to 1990). Toledo's inauguration took place on 28 July 2001.
The Toledo presidency
Since coming to power, the Toledo administration has been plagued by ongoing civil unrest and civic discontent, due primarily to the continuing stagnation of the Peruvian economy, which the current government's economic policies have failed to assuage. In his electoral campaigns, Toledo promised "a break with the past", in particular with the deeply corrupt cronyism and institutionalized patronage of the Fujimori regime. But many of the rank and file of Peru Possible joined the party with the hope of a job, and to stifle discontent within the ranks Toledo has been forced to open civil-service positions to party members, an obvious step backward.
In June 2002, the southern city of Arequipa was paralyzed for a week by strikes and riots in protest of the privatization of two regional electricity generating plants, the largest civil unrest in Peru for fifty years. The government had underestimated local resistance and was forced in the end to rescind the privatizations. The affair sent a clear message to the Toledo administration that its policies are highly unpopular. Despite macroeconomic growth (4,9% for 2002), Peru remains very poor indeed, with more than fifty percent of the population living in poverty, and fifteen percent in extreme poverty.
Toledo now has the lowest popularity rating even for a South American president - in the single digits. In July 2004, Toledo invited government auditors to examine all his bank accounts in response to allegations of corruption. Similar allegations led to a scandal that ousted his predecessor Alberto Fujimori from office.
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