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Peru's Humala breaks silence: vows hands-on style
August 12, 2011 / 9:50 PM / 6 years ago

Peru's Humala breaks silence: vows hands-on style

* Humala promises hands-on, results-oriented style

* Rules out pardon for jailed brother

By Mariana Bazo

PISCO, Peru, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on Friday promised “more action and fewer words,” breaking two weeks of silence and speaking for the first time in public since taking office.

Humala, who has avoided taking a stand on divisive debates that could irk his leftist base, unnerve investors or cause strife in his ideologically-diverse cabinet, said he would be a hard-nosed leader that gets things done.

“My policy is to be a president who speaks publicly only on necessary topics. I do not want over-exposure to cameras because we are working hard,” he told residents in the coastal city of Pisco, where many still live in tents because of a failed government program to rebuild after a devastating 2007 earthquake.

The former military officer, wearing jeans and a white shirt with sleeves rolled up, has sought to distinguish himself from his predecessor, Alan Garcia, a florid speaker who enjoyed mugging for cameras but was criticized for showing little interest in hands-on governing.

“My obligation is to work for your development,” he told residents in Pisco.

Picking Pisco for his first public speech since being sworn in on July 28 was a symbolic way of showing he will try to quickly fight poverty in a country where a third of people are considered poor and feel ignored by the government despite a decade-long economic boom.

Humala, a populist who surprised investors by appointing conservatives to lead his economic team, has called on the army to help the new reconstruction effort.

“I live in this tent with my four children and wife. They promised to help me after my house fell down,” said Cesar Campos, 50. “Mr. President don’t forget us the way Alan Garcia did,” Campos told Humala.

Humala, 49, has appointed centrists and even a conservative to his cabinet, irking hardliners in his left-wing party who are miffed that is courting foreign investors he once railed against in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Critics wonder whether he can hold together a diverse cabinet. He may try to stay above the fray and avoid taking firm stances on controversial issues.

According to a Datum poll published on Friday, Humala’s popularity rose to 62 percent in August from 55 percent shortly before being sworn in. Garcia’s approval rating hovered around 30 percent for much of his five-year term.

Though Humala avoided saying in Pisco whether he would try to overhaul the constitution as some members of his party want, he did finally address demands he give his brother a pardon and free him from prison.

Antauro Humala, who also served in the army, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for leading a rebellion in 2005 to demand the resignation of former President Alejandro Toledo.

Four police officers died trying to put down the insurrection, but Antauro’s defenders say he never fired a shot and only inspired the uprising.

A pardon “isn’t on the agenda,” said the president, who led an unsuccessful 2000 military revolt against President Alberto Fujimori. Humala defeated Fujimori’s daughter in a June 5, 2011 presidential run-off vote. (Writing by Terry Wade and Marco Aquino; Editing by Paul Simao)

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