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Cablegate: Humala: Hedging Bets in Run Up to Elections

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FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1387
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 0087
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 0047
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8600
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 4170
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1517
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C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 001561

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/21/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PTER SNAR PE
SUBJECT: HUMALA: HEDGING BETS IN RUN UP TO ELECTIONS

REF: A. LIMA 637
B. 05 LIMA 4132
C. 05 LIMA 4854

Classified...
id: 230714
date: 10/21/2009 20:13
refid: 09LIMA1561
origin: Embassy Lima
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 05LIMA4132|05LIMA4854|09LIMA637
header:
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DE RUEHPE #1561/01 2942013
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 212013Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1387
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 0087
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 0047
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8600
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 4170
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1517
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT 5325
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 9840
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 0080
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 0075
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY


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C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 001561

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/21/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PTER SNAR PE
SUBJECT: HUMALA: HEDGING BETS IN RUN UP TO ELECTIONS

REF: A. LIMA 637
B. 05 LIMA 4132
C. 05 LIMA 4854

Classified By: Amb P. Michael McKinley for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Opposition leader Ollanta Humala -- who
nearly won the 2006 presidential elections on a populist
platform -- heads a Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) pursuing
an ambiguous dual-track political path. According to
insiders, the party continues to have "one foot inside and
the other foot outside" of the formal political system, and
several factions have been fighting over which path to choose
in the run up to regional and national elections. Humala's
decision to create some level of association with radical
groups has resulted in one recent high-level defection from
the party so far. Whatever his final tack, Humala is likely
to be in the presidential mix in 2011 -- unless Peru's latent
mass of disenchanted voters find someone they believe better
suited to bear the anti-system flag. End Summary.

One Foot In, the Other Out
--------------------------
2. (C) Opposition leader Ollanta Humala -- who nearly won
the 2006 presidential elections on a populist platform --
heads a Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) in search of its
true identity. The party has swung between opposing
approaches since its inception, seeking to make itself
broadly palatable by assuming moderate positions and
eschewing open talk of radical measures while also
maintaining its credentials as an anti-system group dedicated
to profound "nationalist" reform (refs B and C.) In a
conversation with the Ambassador earlier this year, Humala
suggested he was keeping his options open and quietly
coordinating with radical groups (ref A). Nadine Heredia,
Humala's wife and advisor and a key PNP leader, told us more
recently that the party continues to have "one foot inside
and the other foot outside" of the formal political system,
describing the party's vigorous work within Congress and its
willingness, as necessary, to assume more radical positions
to oppose what she characterized as Peru's corrupt and unjust
social and political order.

Infighting Over Approach
------------------------
3. (C) Several party factions have been fighting over which
path to choose in the run up to the 2010 regional elections
and the subsequent national elections in 2011. Publicly,
this dispute has centered over the PNP's reported effort to
forge a broad left-of-center coalition, and include radical
fringe groups such as Patria Roja, (MRTA front organization)
Patria Libre and others in it. Humala himself has made
public statements indicating an interest in working with any
group that "wants to change the country." According to some
reports, Humala has made a political decision to maintain (at
a minimum) some level of association with radical groups,
reportedly opening a "frente amplio" office in a Lima suburb
and holding periodic meetings, even though he recently
publicly denied any intention to form an electoral agreement
with these groups. Some PNP leaders, including Congressman
Daniel Abugattas, have argued that bringing radical groups
into the PNP tent gives them leverage they would otherwise
lack, and undermines the party's authority and leadership.
Abugattas' advisors told us recently that Humala had already
been pressured into taking several controversial public
positions as a result of this dynamic, which had damaged the
party's image.

4. (C) Nadine Heredia told us the PNP talks to "everyone,"
and was open to alliances with other groups on the left. She
underscored that one important exception to this rule was
Sendero Luminoso, which the PNP rejected and against whom her
husband had fought as an Army officer at the height of the
terrorist insurgency. According to news and other reports,
the return as a close advisor to the party of longtime
leftist ideologue Carlos Tapia, who had reportedly distanced
himself from Humala after the 2006 election loss, was one of
the driving forces behind the PNP's move to forge alliances
with all comers, including those on the radical fringe. That
a former staffer to PNP Congresswoman and cocalero leader
Nancy Obregon's was recently caught transporting 140 kilos of
cocaine suggests the party's radical associations extend to
drug-trafficking (vice mere coca growing) interests as well.

5. (C) Another factor in Humala's dual strategy relates to
electoral strategy. According to party insiders, to avoid a
collapse similar to that of the 2006 regional and municipal
elections (in which the PNP fared poorly), Humala has chosen
to field candidates in the 2010 regional elections that fly
under a non-PNP banner as "regional fronts." At the same
time, the party plans to maintain a loose association with
these fronts, hence the reaching out. The reasoning behind
this strategy, insiders say, is that the PNP will be able to
claim victory if "its" candidates win, and thereby gain
momentum in the approach to 2011, while avoiding too close an
association with candidates who lose, which could hamper the
PNP's national aspirations.

High-Level Defection
--------------------
6. (C) Internal dissent over the PNP's approach has resulted
in one recent high-level defection from the party so far,
that of Congressman Isaac Mekler. After publicly questioning
what he called the party's dangerous association with radical
actors, Mekler formally bolted from the party in early
October, declaring himself a political independent.
Following the break, Mekler accused Humala of having been
induced by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez into an
association with such groups as the New Left (Nueva
Izquierda), the Socialist Party, Patria Libre and other
fringe groups. Mekler's follows the earlier defections of
other former Humala allies, most of whom left the PNP fold
immediately after the 2006 elections. Whether rooted in real
ideological disagreements or simple personal interests, it
could also presage more departures in the future. For
example, we have heard that indigenous leaders within the PNP
have also grown restive and some, chafing under the party's
autocratic leadership and claiming Humala has sought to use
them politically while giving them little in return, are
considering breaking ties with the party and throwing their
support to alternative candidates.

Humala in the Mix
-----------------
7. (C) Internal tensions notwithstanding, Humala is likely
to be in the presidential mix in 2011. More than any other
prominent political figure, he continues most fully to embody
the "political opposition" for most Peruvians; and, while
notoriously fickle, poll numbers consistently place him among
the top 5 candidates for president in 2011. In addition, the
PNP is one of the few political parties with a national
structure, and probably the only one (apart from theFujimoristas) with an active political network in Peru's
impoverished rural communities -- a significant electoral
advantage.

Comment: Competing for Anti-System Vote
---------------------------------------
8. (C) Not alone in the anti-system wild, other candidates
are likely to compete with Humala over Peru's overlapping
nationalist, leftist, opposition political turf. These could
include Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori (daughter of the former
President), former Prime Minister Yehude Simon, and
anti-mining activist and Catholic priest, Padre Marco Arana,
who has already formed his "Tierra y Libertad" political
party. In our recent conversation with her, Nadine Heredia's
dismissive attitude toward Humala's potential political
rivals struck us as thinly veiled concern about having to
compete for the political space that became her husband's
alone in 2006. Finally, if Peru's recent electoral past is
precedent, the prospect of a previously little known,
last-minute candidate surging to occupy the anti-system
segment of Peru's political spectrum -- a la Fujimori in
1990, Toledo in 2001 and Humala himself in 2006 -- can hardly
be ruled out. This historical pattern also explains Humala's
strategy of keeping at least one foot outside a system in
which a still significant percentage of Peru's voters have
little faith.
MCKINLEY

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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