Embattled Peruvian President, Ollanta Humala, closed his country’s 194th independence anniversary celebrations at the end of July with a traditional Thanksgiving service and parade in the country’s capital Lima.
However, more significant in Peru’s current political climate was Humala’s fifth, and final, presidential address to Congress on July 28 as he officially entered the last year of his term.
Over the last few years, Humala has been beset with scandal after scandal and deep public dissatisfaction causing his approval ratings to plummet. Now, with a faltering economy and a loss of congressional control, it looks increasingly likely to be a lame duck year for the outgoing head of state.
Humala opted to use his speech to underline what he believes are the achievements of his administration. Peru’s 49th president, according to the Peruvian Times, cited among his accomplishments the reduction of poverty, improved teaching standards, a new pension system as well as offering more higher education scholarships for students.
In his speech, Humala claimed, “Today, Peru is a leader in social policies in Latin America. My government will leave the country a positive legacy.”
“An hour of cheap talk”
The somewhat beatific speech failed to acknowledge the current political crisis dogging Humala’s administration. Former President Alan Garcia, who left office with similarly low approval ratings, took to twitter and branded the speech as ‘an hour of cheap talk’.
In recent months Humala has experienced record-low approval ratings, just 15 percent by some estimates, news agency Mercopress reports.
Peruvian daily La Republica recorded Humala’s approval in June at a paltry 10 percent while El Comercio, another of Peru’s leading newspapers, cited pollsters Ipsos registering 17 percent support for Humala.
The worst ratings of all Humala’s four years in office were reported at June-end, though he has seen a slight resurgence in August year, reaching 23 percent according to a PulsoPerú–Gestión poll.
Faltering economy, scandals and an opposition controlled Congress
The widespread public dissatisfaction recorded by polling groups is generally agreed to stem from a faltering economy, several high-profile scandals and allegations of corruption against several of the President’s close associates, including Peru’s First Lady.
In recent years resource-rich Peru has enjoyed substantial economic growth thanks to a global demand and high commodity prices. However, with a recent drop in the commodities market, the Peruvian economy has spent several years in decline and the effects of which are starting to hit home with minimum wage, which has been frozen for the past three years, the regions lowest.
In addition to economic woes, Humala’s popularity also dropped following protests against the proposed Tia Maria mining project which Reuters reported left four dead and some 300 injured earlier this year, after the government called in the army and issued a state of emergency in the region.
Humala has also had a relatively unhappy presidency in legislative terms. Over the last four years his administration has had seven different Prime Ministers as well as more recently suffering highly damaging Congressional defeats on pension and labor reforms. To make matters worse, a recent election for the head of Congress was won by opposition legislator Luis Iberico. Humala will now spend his final year in office without legislative control making his ability to pass laws and implement changes needed more complex.
Peruvian sociologist and political analyst Sinesio López, in his La República newspaper column, tersely summed up Humala’s Presidency: “This, like the previous ones, is a government of lost opportunities.”