From revolutionary nationalists, to establishment insiders. Garcia's party believe they'll return to government.
As confirmation came that Peru’s former President Alan Garcia had died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in order to avoid facing corruption charges, a lawmaker of his party Omar Quesada emerged from the hospital shouting "Viva el APRA." APRA, the political party Garcia led, once a powerful force, has been more recently disgraced by corruption scandals and is looking to make a comeback following the outpouring of sympathy after Garcia’s suicide.
On Thursday, Erasmo Reyna, APRA’s official attorney throughout the Odebrecht corruption scandal, called for the party to unite and to once again become once “The party of the great masses ... In homage to Alan Garcia, we will do it.”
APRA was once a mass workers party, but after Alan Garcia’s presidencies and the Odebrecht corruption scandal, which has seen every single one of Peru’s living ex-presidents either in jail or on the run, Peruvians have a dim view of the party. According to a poll by Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP) from December 2018, the party is now viewed by 84 percent of Peruvians as corrupt.
APRA stands for the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance. Once a revolutionary party, social movements such as the Confederacion Campesino de Peru would later accuse Garcia of allying to the neoliberal parties such as those of the Fujimori family.
It was founded in 1924 as one of the first revolutionary left nationalist parties in Latin America. Under the leadership of firebrand radical, Victor Haya de La Torre, they were a firmly anti-imperialist movement that believed in a united Latin America, in which natural resources and the commanding heights of industry would be under popular control.
In 1932, APRA faced repression when they led a worker's insurrection in the northern coastal city of Trujillo, the state responded with aerial bombardment of the city. Over 4,000 APRA activists and sympathisers were killed and the revolt was quelled.
APRA was then forced underground and members went into exile. Founder Haya de La Torre began leaving behind his radical roots and instead helped prop up right-wing governments in 1945 and 1956 hoping to maintain legality for the party in a long period of alliances with neoliberal governments that social scientists now call “the accommodation.”
Alan Garcia became the first APRA leader to be elected president in 1985. What followed was serious economic collapse — his last year in power saw inflation at 2,000 percent, an unpaid debt to the IMF at US$600 million, and another to the World Bank at US$400 million.
He started his presidency with a 90% approval rating — 4 years later it was just 9%. He did not get a second term until he returned to power in 2006, after running an anti-communist campaign, claiming that his opponent Ollanta Humala was in league with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. The campaign process put APRA firmly in the mainstream of Peruvian politics.
He also had a poor human rights record from his repression of Indigenous protesters in Bagua, who fought against the sale of their lands, leaving more than 100 dead.
On Friday, Garcia’s son proclaimed that “we have to ensure APRA returns to government, one way or another.” It remains to be seen whether the radical legacy of Haya de La Torre is strong enough to overcome the unpopular presidencies of Alan Garcia. More importantly, whether the sympathy for Garcia’s death is more powerful than the public anger generated by the Odebrecht corruption scandal.
Garcia would have faced accusations of having receiving $100,000 in kickbacks from the Brazilian company. One judge, Juan Sanchez Balbuena, this year accused Garcia of being a chief of a criminal organization dedicated to money laundering. Nevertheless, Garcia’s loyalists believe they’ll return with APRA’s high profile lawmaker Jorge De Castillo saying, “APRA will unite to recover our space on the political scene.”