President of Peru, 2001-. Alejandro Toledo was born in 1946 in Cabana, Ancash department and raised among 15 siblings in the port town of Chimbote. At 16, he enrolled at the University of San Francisco with a one-year scholarship. Toledo completed his education with the help of a partial football scholarship, going on to earn two masters degrees and a PhD in economics and human resources from Stanford University, where he met his current wife Elián Karp, an anthropologist and Quechua speaker. Toledo has worked for the World Bank, the United Nations, as minister of labor under President Fernando Belaúnde, and as chief economic adviser to the president of Peru's Central Bank.
Despite Toledo's generally centrist politics, he enjoyed electoral support from the underclass due to his cholo heritage and humble roots. In the election convened after the flight of former president Alberto Fujimori to Japan, Toledo beat APRA candidate and former president Alan García by a slim margin (52.5% to 47.5%). His campaign and was plagued by allegations that he fathered and abandoned an illegitimate child, Zarai Orosco, accounting problems with campaign donations, and accusations that he has taken cocaine and hired prostitutes.
Toledo's presidency is among the weakest in Peru's short democratic history. Due to the narrow margin of victory and the weak showing for his Perú Posible party in 2000 (it won less than a third of the congressional seats), Toledo has been forced to create a coalition government, appointing more than 80% of his ministers from other parties. Critics note that despite the new president's apparent desire to rebuild the Incan empire (inaugural ceremonies were held in Machu Picchu as well as Lima), he did not appoint a single Indian to a cabinet position.
Chronic recession, high unemployment, and other economic problems have significantly weakened Toledo's already-feeble mandate to govern. Editorials in El Comercio and other Peruvian newspapers have spoken out against his economic management, and much of the blame for Peru's current state falls on him despite the obvious economic reality of worldwide recession. Toledo has been significantly harmed politically by a rural populace which still remembers the end of Maoist terrorism and the mass expansion of infrastructure in poor villages under Fujimori. It is unlikely that he will triumph in the next election despite several significant victories. Toledo pushed for and obtained congressional and presidential approval of the Andean Trade Pact, which grant Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia greater access to U.S. markets. He has also overseen the capture and prosecution of dozens of individuals charged of corruption and political crimes under the Fujimori regime, including former SIN chief Vladimiro Montesinos.
Toledo's political future looks bleak: Peru is in its fifth year of recession, and many are discontent with his slow prosecution of Fujimori's cronies. In recent polls, Toledo polls a suprising last place after after Alan García of the APRA party, Fujimori (who has announced his unlikely candidacy for the 2006 election) and almost every other Peruvian citizen, with an approval rating of just 7%.
To me this demonstrates the validity of a statement made in an El Comercio editorial after the infamous Utopía disco fire of June 2002: "the only thing Peruvians have learned is that we never learn." The author was referring to the unwillingness to enforce fire and building codes which led to the deaths of 30 people, but it applies just as neatly to Peruvian politics; Peruvian voters would rather have Alan García, who turned Peru into a Soviet-style poverty-stricken command economy terrorized by guerrilla groups in the 1980s, or Alberto Fujimori, who allowed pervasive corruption and blatant constitutional violations throughout his regime in the 1990s, than the weak and ineffective "Choledo".
Update: May 20, 2004 What can one say about Toledo that hasn't already been said? He must be the most unpopular democratically elected leader in Peruvian history, with polls showing his approval rating at about 5%. The APRA is trying to start a vote to unseat him, and he and his wife have managed to offend pretty much everyone they have ever met. He's recycled his cabinet about 46 times, and each new minister appears more incompetent and corrupt than the last.