Big defeat for Hugo Chávez in Peru

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"Publius Pundit" has an excellent collection of blogs on Alan García's victory over Ollanta Humala in Peru.

This was a stinging defeat for Venezuelan quasi dictator Hugo Chávez, who touts himself as the voice of downtrodden Latin America and describes George W. Bush as the greatest tyrant in the history of the world. Most Peruvians aren't buying this garbage. Publius argues that the whole Western Hemisphere dodged a bullet here:

More so than any other election in this hemisphere, this election tested Peru's resolve as a democracy. Was Peru going to slip into the Hugo Chávez camp or move into a moderate social democracy like that of [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] in Brazil? Hugo Chávez stuck his nose into everything here and made this whole election all about him.

García stepped forward and realized that if he was going to win, the alternative he'd offer would be a soft, law-respecting social democracy that contrasted sharply with Chávez's vision for Peru. [Lourdes] Flores [the conservative free-market candidate eliminated in the first round] voters were willing to go along with it and trust him. Even though they hated him. They did this because they knew that democracy itself was at stake. Humala had no intention of leaving when his term for office was over. Right off the bat he proposed to rewrite the constitution to Chavista standards, one of which includes a stipulation of "dictator for life."

So it's really not just Peru but the entire Western Hemisphere that dodges a bullet and in this watershed election is saved from a very dangerous swing to the nondemocratic totalitarian left.

Note that García's election follows by one week the re-election by a whopping margin of conservative Alvaro Uribe in Colombia.

For a geographic breakdown of the vote, look at the map on the excellent Peru election site of the University of British Columbia. García carried the coastal areas of Peru and carried the Lima and Callao districts—the most populous in the country by far—by about 2 to 1. Humala did best in the interior, heavily indio (indigenous) districts, with 69 percent of the vote in the Cusco district, the site of the capital of the Inca empire. Peru has long consisted of two almost separate societies, the criollo (mixed race) and the indio, with many in the latter speaking Quechua rather than Spanish. Tourists are told that the Machu Picchu ruins were discovered by the American Hiram Bingham in 1911, but there are also reports that they were known to the local indios all along and that they simply didn't tell the Spanish speakers about them—for something like 370 years! The Chávez-supported Evo Morales won in indio-majority Bolivia, and the Chávez appeal is apparently strongest among nonwhites. But that wasn't enough for his candidate to win in multiethnic Peru. Readers should note, by the way, that racial categories in Latin America are quite different from those in the United States and indeed differ from one Latin American country to another.