LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s leftist President-elect Ollanta Humala vowed on Tuesday he is no copy of his one-time mentor, Venezuela’s firebrand leader Hugo Chavez, as he tried to reassure investors he will protect a long economic boom.
Visibly weary following Sunday’s election victory over right-wing lawmaker Keiko Fujimori, Humala told Reuters he would not be importing any economic model from abroad.
“We think the path for Peru is its own road, without copying other countries. That needs to be very clear,” he said when asked to respond to critics who say he will be another Chavez.
Humala campaigned on a promise to ensure that millions of poor Peruvians will share the windfall from a decade-long boom, fueled largely by high global prices for its mining industry.
He worries business leaders and investors, although he has dropped some of the radical policies of his past and has tried to cast himself in the vein of more moderate leftist leaders like Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The former army commander, who fought Maoist Shining Path guerrillas in the jungle in the 1990s, describes himself as a nationalist and burst onto the political scene in 2000 when he led a short-lived bloodless revolt to demand former President Alberto Fujimori resign.
He wants to strengthen relations with Peru’s South American neighbors, especially Brazil, which has emerged as the region’s economic powerhouse and political heavyweight.
But he also said on Tuesday that the United States is “a strategic partner” and that he would work closely with Washington to fight drug traffickers in the world’s top grower of coca, which is used to make cocaine.
Humala has heavily moderated his policies since losing the 2006 presidential election, and he played down a plunge in Peru’s financial markets on Monday that followed his triumph, saying a partial recovery on Tuesday showed it was a blip.
Investors are on edge waiting to see who Humala will appoint as finance minister and central bank chief to run one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. His appointments to those and other key posts will demonstrate how much he has really moderated his policies.
Humala kept them guessing on Tuesday, saying he would announce his cabinet at the “right time”, and would not bow to pressure. He also gave few clues.
“They will be honorable, and have experience and be efficient in their given sector. They will be committed to social policy and social inclusion,” he said.
The 48-year-old father of three, an avid runner still marked by military routine, said his government would be fiscally prudent and would not sell sovereign bonds to finance his anti-poverty programs.
“We are going to develop infrastructure by forming public-private partnerships,” he said.
He sought to strike a conciliatory tone about his proposal to introduce a windfall profits tax on companies in Peru’s vast mining sector — commodity revenues he plans to use to fund programs to help the third of Peruvians who live in poverty.
“In principle there was a political consensus during the campaign to charge a windfall profits tax on miners,” he said. “We need to talk with companies about the tax rate, taking into account their margins.”
Investors worry Humala’s social spending and plans to tighten the state’s grip over Peru’s natural resources could put economic growth at risk.
But his top economic advisers insist he will run a balanced budget, keep inflation low, respect Peru’s many free-trade pacts and honor private investment.
Writing by Terry Wade and Simon Gardner; Editing by Kieran Murray