A Big Job in Peru

The brightest side of the election in Peru was the orderliness and cleanness of the vote. Just a year ago, this important Andean nation was plunged into turmoil after a highly suspect election reinstalled the now-exiled Alberto Fujimori.

While the vote this time was clean, the campaign was a mudfest between the winner, Alejandro Toledo, and former president Alan Garcia - who, to his credit, graciously conceded defeat.

Mr. Toledo, a US-trained former World Bank consultant, rose to prominence as a chief critic of Mr. Fujimori's authoritarian and corrupt ways. He promises a government free of corruption, pledged to economic reform, and attentive to the needs of the poor.

It's an ambitious agenda. The battle against corruption has already been joined by the interim administration of Valentin Paniagua, who stepped in when Fujimori fled the country last November. The smoothly functioning vote, monitored by international observers, was one evidence of this. Also, a number of Fujimori-tainted military officers and officials have been forced out. Toledo now has to stay the course.

Economically, Peru is in the doldrums. Toledo is talking about attracting foreign investment to produce new jobs and about arranging to reduce the country's heavy debt burden.

Those are good steps. But one of the new president's major tasks will be to convince average Peruvians - many of whom were attracted to Toledo by his Indian heritage and his own roots in poverty - that such long-term economic strategies will eventually improve their lives.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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