Humala tells AFP he proved critics wrong, Peru growth shines
(LIMA) - Peru's President Ollanta Humala, preparing a European tour to drum up investment, defied his conservative critics Tuesday and told AFP that his economic policies are on course for success.
The Nationalist Party founder was elected in 2011. The former army officer forged alliances with leftist parties committed to fighting Peru's high poverty rate -- 27 percent of 29 million people -- while also seeking investment.
Conservative critics feared he might interfere with the free market.
But Humala has so far hewn to his pledge to follow a path like that of former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, trying to fuel economic growth while also insisting on reducing poverty and boosting living standards.
So far, Peru's economy has continues its very brisk growth rate, topping six percent, largely on the back of mining and mineral exports but also increasingly on textiles and farm goods.
"The people who prejudged me before I got to the presidency were wrong," Humala insisted, in an interview given to AFP just before he left for Europe for a visit to France and the Ibero-American summit in Spain.
Unlike staunch US critics Venezuela and Bolivia, which have courted international criticism pursued recent nationalizations, Peru under Humala has staked out a more moderate, Brazilian-style development tack.
"Today, we are carrying out responsible economic stewardship, and creating ways for the economic growth to reach the country's poorest people. That is called social inclusion and fighting inequality," Humala stressed.
Despite some social unrest -- which he called "typical of countries with mining-industry" development -- Humala said that in 2011 "we had record investment of $7.6 billion.
"And this year, just in the first quarter, we have topped $3.6 billion -- another record," he said.
He urged European investors to, "instead of putting up with red ink, to come and invest" in Peru, where silver, gold and tungsten mining operations are vast through the Andes.
Peru's economy is the fastest growing in Latin America.
But the country has a lot of catching up to do with neighbors in terms of infratructure investment -- an estimated $88 billion in the next decade to keep its current growth rate, according to the National Infrastructure Institute.
The South American nation desperately needs massive investment in highways, bridges, water pipelines and sewers, ports, power plants and phone line expansion, the group maintains.
"So that situation, for Spain and other countries in Europe, is a great opportunity to come here and invest," Humala argued.
Humala, who said he hoped his legacy would be honest government, also voiced some frustration at the law that limits him to one five-year presidential term.
Many in Peru have speculated that his wife, First Lady Nadine Heredia might seek office down the line.
"The clock ticking stresses me out every day," Humala told AFP. "There is so much still to do, and so many needs."