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Cablegate: Peru: President Garcia's Emotional and Physical


DE RUEHPE #4570/01 3382244
R 042244Z DEC 06

S E C R E T LIMA 004570



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/04/2016

REF: STATE 189857

Classified By: Ambassador J Curtis Struble for reason 1.4(C).

1. (S) This message is in response to reftel request for
information on the emotional and physical health of President
Alan Garcia. Our responses are slugged to the questions in
reftel paragraphs. We do not always have first-hand
information on the questions asked, a fact reflected in some
of our answers below.

2. (S) Garcia's overall health appears to be good.
Notwithstanding a strenuous work schedule, he has clearly
gained weight over the past several months. This shows (both
in press photos and private meetings) in his slightly larger
jowls and a growing paunch. Reports of manic depression or
bipolar disorder are impossible to confirm, but rumors in
this connection are widespread. For example, many of our
contacts (with purported first-hand knowledge) say that
Garcia has always been moody, disposed to sudden flights of
enthusiasm, plunges of bad humor, and abrupt changes of mind.
Many of the more damaging rumors appear to have their
origins in the latter part of Garcia's first term, when his
popularity plummeted and the political and security
situations spiraled out of control. According to some
reports, in response Garcia at one point fell into a deep
funk, locked himself behind closed doors and refused public
contact of any kind for days on end. While that report
continues to hound him, there are no indications that it
responds to a long-standing or deep-set dimension of his
psychological or emotional makeup.

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3. (S) We do not have the names and/or specialties of his

4. (S) We have no direct information with respect to
medications taken by the president. A number of our contacts
have told us (as though it were an established fact) that
Garcia takes lithium for anti-depression (anti-bipolar
disorder) purposes, but we cannot confirm the veracity of
these reports.

5. (S) There is no evidence that Garcia suffers from alcohol
or drug abuse. We understand he does drink socially.

6. (S) Persecution, real as well as imagined, has been an
integral part of the president's life. Garcia's father, a
founding member of APRA, was imprisoned for several years for
his political activism. The APRA has been the object of
political persecution during Peru's recent era of military
dictatorships (1968-80), its activities as anti-regime
"democrats" curtailed. Garcia himself chose to leave Peru
after his first term ended in 1990, partly out of fears of
persecution. After one year of exile in Colombia, he fled to
France on hearing reports that he was being pursued by
Fujimori henchmen either for assassination or kidnapping back
to Peru. More recently, as president, Garcia and his son
have been the targets of alleged kidnapping plots. These
experiences have broadly shaped his personal and political
outlook, and exacerbated an innate tendency to keep
information "close-hold," strictly limited to an intimate
circle of advisors.

7. (S) A master politician, Garcia has survived and thrived
via the indirect threat, ably playing rivals against one
another and undermining, with cold calculation, the political
bases of potential competitors, including those within his
own party. Garcia's APRA party is also well known as the
most effective political machine in Peru, complete with goon
squads that are dispatched to do various kinds of dirty work
on behalf of its leaders. We have no information that he has
ever issued explicit violent threats or the like. While
there are widespread reports that he is a difficult,
demanding boss and a moody person, we have no information
that he is abusive toward advisors or family.

8. (S) According to most reports, Garcia has an extremely
heavy work load and regularly takes on too many tasks. As a
man who lives and breathes politics, at the expense of most
other dimensions of his life, he often works late. It could
almost be said that work is all he does. Moreover, he is a
pure politician in the sense that he has never done anything
but the work of candidate or president, and it is all he
knows how to do. (He has written books, but most critics
understand that is not his gift.)

9. (S) Garcia has the reputation of being an acute
micro-manager and very demanding on his staff, even tasking
senior ministers in public and on the spot with various
responsibilities and duties. In the sense that he often
expects Ministers to divine and carry out his will rather
than to generate policy ideas or propose alternative

solutions, he demands the impossible. As for lofty ideas, he
appears to have learned lessons from his first term, lowering
expectations and focusing on pragmatic programs rather than
on large romantic visions. For example, he has no apparent
ambition to change the world, re-order political and economic
realities according to a new "vision" for Latin America, or
create the new socialist specimen or Bolivarian man. The
signal programs of his second term so far -- Sierra
Exportadora, Agua Para Todos, the Decentralization Shock --
amount in many ways to recombining and repackaging diverse
existing tactical poverty reduction schemes (including
USAID's PRA -- Poverty Reduction and Alleviation -- project)
than to pursuing an overriding lofty ambition. At the same
time, most observers see Garcia's strengths as rhetorical
rather than administrative, in inspiring with impassioned and
even poetic oratory rather than in overseeing (prosaic)
projects slowly through their step by step implementation.

10. (S) Garcia's public and private persona are, in many
ways, at odds. In public, he tends to strike the majesterial
presidential pose, chest thrust forward, head held high, arms
and hands gesturing in the formal, almost choreographed
manner of the leader. He is also prone to giving long public
lectures, reflecting a know-it-all and superior tone. All
this comes across as pompous and inflated. By contrast, in
private Garcia is a more informal, disarming and even
considerate figure. He is courteous and deferential with
visitors, and an excellent listener, often probing
interlocutors for more detailed information. One aspect on
which there is near universal agreement is that Garcia has a
colossal ego, which can blind him to the merits of good ideas
and alternatives that he himself has not generated. To some
observers, while he is unlikely to repeat the mistakes that
brought Peru close to ruin during his first administration,
the ego is Garcia's Achilles' heel and could have
counterproductive consequences to the current government,
especially if unchecked.

11. (S) Garcia's attention span appears to be good, and his
listening skills are excellent. We have no information that
he has difficulty in concentrating, gets confused or is
forgetful. As noted above, there are widespread reports of a
certain emotional volatility, but it is not clear that this
impairs his ability to think or to express himself clearly.

12. (S) We have no information about any periods of intense
energy or activity, racing thoughts or incoherence. We have
not noted any tendency to shake, blink or roll his eyes.

13. (S) While there are widespread reports that Garcia fell
into a deep depression near the end of his first term (as
noted above), we have no information that that corresponds to
a deep-set emotional characteristic or that it has recurred
regularly since that time. We have no information about talk
of suicide.

14. (S) We have no information regarding any decreased need
for sleep or food. A truly gifted orator, he never sounds as
though his speech were hurried or pressured, nor does it
follow a notably illogical flow.

15. (S) We have no information about his exercise routine or
diet regimen, nor any dietary restrictions due to ongoing

16. (S) We have no information regarding any compulsive
overeating, shopping, gambling or the like. That said, as
noted above, Garcia has manifestly gained weight since being
in office and is likely a consequence of his eating amply and
well. There are widespread rumors of Garcia's numerous
extra-marital sexual liaisons. Recently, Garcia publicly
acknowledged one of them, with Ms. Elizabeth Roxanne
Cheesman, with whom he had a young child. While he publicly
claimed that this relationship occurred during the brief time
he was estranged from his wife Pilar Nores, some observers
have suggested that it was much more enduring than he had
publicly let on.

17. (S) In the interim between the end of his first
presidential term in 1990 and the current term, which began
in July of 2006, Garcia has spent time both abroad and in
Peru. After leaving office the first time, in 1992 Garcia
fled to a kind of quasi political exile in Bogota, Colombia,
where he remained for one year. (Garcia harbors a deep
sympathy for Colombia dating back to that time.) From there,
he fled to France, where he lived for the following eight
years. (From this period, Garcia speaks excellent French and
has a strong personal sympathy for French society and life.)
He returned to Peru in 2001, following Alberto Fujimori's
resignation from the presidency. He was formally separated
from his wife in 2004-5.

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