Toledo: 'I'm enjoying my freedom'
Former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo considers himself a "statistical error" in the political history of Latin America.
Former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo considers himself a "statistical error" in the political history of Latin America. Despite growing up poor in a native Indian family, he managed to reach the United States as a youth thanks to two American volunteers who visited Peru and spotted the talented boy. In the late 1970s, after completing undergraduate and graduate degrees, he went on to do doctoral studies at Stanford University, which is where he met Eliane Karp.
"I am enjoying my freedom now after a very intensive experience in politics," Toledo told Haaretz in his first interview since the end of his term of office last summer. "I am not a professional politician, and in recent years I did not have too much time for the family, which is very important for me. I intend to stay at Stanford for another year and then perhaps go on to Harvard."
Toledo added that he is proud of having completed his term of office while displaying complete respect for democratic laws - including freedom of the press, independence of the various institutions and the quiet transfer of power. Economically, he says, his goal was to try to reduce poverty and return Peru to the international community after the dire period of the Fujimori regime.
Toledo is backed up by hard data: According to the World Bank, the Peruvian economy grew by 28 percent from 2002 to 2006, above the world average. Inflation during this period was 12 percent, as compared with 44 percent on average in Latin America.
Clifford Krauss, a New York Times reporter who covered Peru in the first two years of Toledo's presidency, says his term in office is indeed considered a success from this point of view. Even though his public support fell drastically to below 10 percent in the middle of his presidency, he had 45 percent support at the end of his term.
"I am very proud that I was a democratic leader," Toledo says, "but it is possible that I did not devote enough time to short-term decisions. Maybe that would have made it easier for me politically. Politicians do not tend to focus on the long-term. I decided to focus precisely on the intermediate and long-term regarding infrastructures, education and health, and that requires many years."
Despite the hard times he endured, as well as the attacks on him and his wife in both the past and the present, Toledo says that he does not regret having entered politics. "I saw it as a privilege. For an Indian boy from a family of peasants to go through this whole story and in the end become president - that is a great privilege. I could have gone on writing books in academia that would not have had any influence on anyone."
On the latest reports in the Peruvian media, he says, "They can say whatever they like. In my presidency there was no corruption. Fujimori and Montesinos will never forgive me for toppling them. They made my life impossible. They could have accused me of being inexperienced. They could have accused me of being a political novice. But corruption? Absolutely not."