Alejandro Toledo calls himself "a statistical fluke" -- a Peruvian of Indian descent who rose from acute poverty in a remote Andean village to obtain master's and doctoral degrees from Stanford University and, more astonishingly, to a valid attempt to govern a country traditionally ruled by a white minority.
On June 3, Toledo defeated Alan Garcia in a runoff election to win the nation's presidency."Tonight Peruvians celebrate the triumph of democracy," Toledo declared in his election night victory speech. "I swear, brothers and sisters, I will never let you down."
Toledo says he has played by the rules of Peruvian politics, but his roots pose problems.
"It is very difficult for the traditional ruling elite here to swallow the possibility that a person with my background and ethnic composition could become president of Peru," he says.
Once a shoeshine boy, Toledo led a broad-based opposition movement against the corrupt and authoritarian government of former President Alberto Fujimori, now living in exile in Japan.
Toledo's strongest appeal during the campaign was among Peru's poor mestizo Indian population, a group that nicknamed him "Pachacuti" -- which means "cataclysm" or "destroyer" and was the name chosen by the Inca ruler Yupanqui who expanded and unified the Inca empire with numerous conquests.
Toledo relishes the comparison, and when campaigning in the Andean highlands, he typically wore traditional Indian clothes and headdresses. Critics say he is resorting to cheap tactics and that he looks like a clown. But Toledo insists he is trying to rescue the sense of identity of the majority of Peruvians.
He is married to a fair-haired Belgian-born anthropologist, who unlike him speaks the native Indian language Quechua.
Toledo never misses a chance to talk about how he risked his life defying Fujimori, or how he is constantly receiving death threats.
But in a campaign marked by unlimited mud slinging, Toledo had been unable to convince many Peruvians that he is innocent of allegations he fathered an illegitimate child and has used cocaine.
And other critics point out that Toledo's economic record has never been put to the test -- and that he had never held public office.
Toledo's main campaign promise was to provide desperately needed jobs for Peruvians plagued by economic recession and widespread disenchantment with politicians. But even he recognizes there are no quick fixes for the ills of a country whose fragile democracy has been living in perpetual turmoil.
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