[FONT=verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif][SIZE=-1]A careful start to a second term[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif][SIZE=-1]IN THE 1980s he presided over hyperinflation, nationalisations, price controls and a guerrilla war. Now back in office after years in the political wilderness, he is bending over backwards to seem like a moderate statesman. No, this is not Daniel Ortega (see article) but Peru's president, Alan García.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif][SIZE=-1]Since taking office at the end of July, Mr García has combined a few populist gestures with many of the business-friendly policies of his predecessor, Alejandro Toledo. The first category includes a bill to impose the death penalty on paedophile murderers and on terrorists, and wage cuts for senior officials, ministers and congressmen. The second set of policies has comprised steps to cut red tape for businesses, appointing a fiscal hawk as finance minister and a lobbying campaign to try to persuade the United States' Congress to approve a free-trade agreement with Peru. Mr García has dropped a campaign pledge to levy a windfall tax on mining companies, and instead wants them to make a voluntary contribution.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif][SIZE=-1]The mixture has gone down well with Peruvians. Opinion polls show the president's approval rating has edged up to around 60%. It helps that Mr García inherited a healthy economy (see chart). High mineral prices have contributed to booming exports. Although he has kept Mr Toledo's economic policies, the president has deftly distanced himself from his predecessor's personal failings. He slashed the official budget for expensive whisky and grounded the presidential jet. Instead, Mr García travels tourist class. When confronted with media reports that he had fathered a child when separated in 2004, he called a press conference to express his warm feelings for the child, its mother and his wife. That was in sharp contrast to Mr Toledo's handling of a similar claim. [/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif][SIZE=-1]But there are occasional glimpses of the old Mr García, too. He has lashed out at critics, from environmentalists and human-rights activists to the divided opposition. He pops up to announce personally even the most mundane news, such as the end of a dockworkers' strike. [/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif][SIZE=-1]He is lining up foreign aid for a much-needed anti-poverty programme, but it is not clear whether he will take the tough measures needed to improve education and health. His shrewd prime minister, Jorge del Castillo, has been wheeled out to settle a series of protests, including one by Amazonian Indians which shut down the main oilfield for almost a fortnight. Some Peruvians worry that this will merely encourage further protests.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=verdana,geneva,arial,sans serif][SIZE=-1]Although Mr García's [SIZE=-1]APRA[/SIZE] party may not do well in local elections on November 19th, the outcome is unlikely to have much bearing on national politics. More important will be the fate of the free-trade agreement, and whether the government succeeds in reaching agreements with the mining companies on tax and with Spain's Telefónica, the dominant telecoms operator in Peru, on reduced charges. The test of Mr García's new moderation will come when the going gets tough. [/SIZE][/FONT]
Shining Path leader offers truce
By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima
The only active leader of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla movement, Comrade Artemio, has offered a truce with the government.
In return he wants amnesty and a negotiated end to the armed conflict.
The guerrilla leader, who is thought to command between 200 and 300 fighters, spoke to journalists near his base in Peru's jungle interior.
The Peruvian government has yet to respond, but in 2004 offered a $50,000 reward for Comrade Artemio's capture.
At a secret location in the jungle province of San Martin, the leader of the remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla movement offered his terms in the pouring rain. Brutal insurgency
Comrade Artemio, the last remaining leader of the group which terrorised Peruvians in the 1980s and '90s, said he was prepared to call a truce with the government of Peru in return for a political settlement and a general amnesty.
However, the government is unlikely to respond favourably.
The Shining Path began their brutal 12-year insurgency in 1980 in which 70,000 people were killed.
It is now considered to be a spent force presenting little threat to the state.
Its main leader, Abimael Guzman, is serving a life sentence. So are practically all the group's other leaders.
Nevertheless, rebel factions still cause difficulties for the government.
At the end of last year, eight soldiers were ambushed and killed by the rebels who now provide protection for cocaine traffickers in Peru's remotest areas.
Last month, the Peruvian President Alan García called for the death penalty for terrorists.
The government still organises a self-defence force against the remaining factions of the Shining Path. But Comrade Artemio said he did not fear the death penalty and if the government ignored his call for a truce, more violence would be inevitable.
Hey, Comrade Artemio was captured the last year and it isn't just a guerrilla wafare agaisnt 'Sendero Luminoso' or Shining Path is a guerrilla war agaisnt SL and drug dealers. I sure that we can defeat them but there's a $$$ interest, everyone knows that here.