IN THE NEWS #484 - Peru's President-Elect Alejandro Toledo

By George Grow

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Voters in Peru Sunday elected Alejandro Toledo as the country's next President. He defeated former President Alan Garcia.

Observers hope the elections will end a year of political crisis in Peru. Mr. Toledo will replace acting President Valentin Paniagua, a former leader in the Peruvian Congress. He has governed Peru since President Alberto Fujimori was ousted last year.

Alejandro Toledo had simple beginnings. He was born to a poor family in Nineteen-Forty-Six. They lived in the small village of Cabana. Some of his ancestors were native Indians. Alejandro was one of sixteen children. He grew up in the Peruvian port of Chimbote. He sold soft drinks and cleaned shoes while attending school.

Young Alejandro was a good student. He won a chance to continue his studies in the United States. He went to the United States in Nineteen-Sixty-Five, when he was eighteen years old. Alejandro Toledo studied economics, and graduated from Stanford University in California. Later, he worked as an advisor at the United Nations. He also worked for the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.

Mr. Toledo was a candidate for President of Peru in Nineteen-Ninety-Five. However, he received only three percent of the vote. He was the leading candidate against President Alberto Fujimori during the presidential campaign last year. But Mr. Toledo later withdrew because he said the election was dishonest.

Mr. Toledo led a protest campaign that helped oust the Fujimori government. Mr. Fujimori resigned from office in November after the release of a videotape recording. The tape showed his spy chief offering money to an opposition lawmaker.

Peru has been in recession for four years. The official unemployment rate is about eight percent. However, unemployment is believed to be much higher.

Mr. Toledo's experience as an economist was considered one of his strengths in the recent election. The new President-elect has said he will use his experience to help Peru's economy. He also said he would work to reduce taxes and increase investment.

During the campaign, Mr. Toledo was accused of using the illegal drug cocaine. He was also accused of failing to help a child he reportedly had with a woman not his wife. He denies the accusations. However, public opinion studies show many Peruvians do not consider him truthful.

Mr. Toledo will be sworn-in as Peru's President in late July. The election of someone who was born poor and is mixed race is a major event for many of his followers. Mr. Toledo talked about his ties to local people during the campaign. Eighty percent of Peruvians are poor or are of mixed race.

Mr. Toledo says the country is deeply divided. He says he will work to become president of all Peruvians.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by George Grow. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English