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Toledo Sworn In, Vows to Aid Peru's Poor

Politics: U.S.-educated economist assumes presidency, capping his meteoric rise and completing nation's return to democracy.

July 29, 2001|From Associated Press

LIMA, Peru — Alejandro Toledo, Peru's first freely elected president of Indian descent, was sworn in to office Saturday, promising to remain true to his roots and govern for the nation's poor.

Toledo's assumption of the presidency seals the former shoeshine boy's remarkable rise and completes Peru's return to democracy after a decade of authoritarian rule by disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori.

"My government will never again permit the dignity of the poor to be stolen through political manipulation," Toledo told the Congress.

Lawmakers, judges, ministers and more than two dozen foreign dignitaries, including 11 Latin American presidents and U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, cheered when Toledo took the oath of office "for the poor of Peru."

He accepted the red-and-white sash relinquished by interim President Valentin Paniagua, a former head of Congress who assumed the presidency eight months ago after lawmakers voted to remove Fujimori on constitutional grounds of moral unfitness.

In a separate ceremony, Toledo swore in his Cabinet, led by U.S.-linked technocrats, to steer Peru's economy out of its slump, in part by lowering taxes to encourage consumer spending and business investment.

He had earlier named Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former investment banker in the United States, as finance minister, and Roberto Danino, an expert in international corporate transactions who worked for years in Washington, as prime minister.

Toledo, 55, was elected last month in a close runoff election against former President Alan Garcia.

An economist who overcame poverty to earn a doctorate from Stanford University, Toledo capitalized on his Indian origins during the election campaign to appeal to Peruvians, most of whom have native roots.

His aides dubbed him "Pachacutec," after an Inca emperor.

He pulled himself out of a presidential runoff vote last year that he claimed Fujimori had rigged and joined the opposition to Fujimori's autocratic regime, enduring smear campaigns, tear gas and death threats.

Fujimori fled in November to Japan, his parents' homeland, as corruption scandals involving the former intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, ended his 10-year rule.

From Tokyo, in a message on his Web site Saturday, Fujimori defended his legacy. He was initially popular with Peruvians grateful to him for taming guerrillas and halting the economic chaos of the 1980s.

In his inaugural address, Toledo reiterated his campaign promise to create 400,000 jobs a year during his five-year term through programs to kick-start agriculture, tourism and small businesses.

He pledged to work with the United States in the struggle against drug trafficking.

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