Peru's electoral board declared 77-year-old Pedro Pablo Kuczynski the country's next president Thursday after he edged out challenger Keiko Fujimori by .24 percent.
Kuczynski, better known throughout the country by his initials PPK, or as "el gringo" in reference to his U.S. nationality, accent, and gestures. However, what almost cost him the election is his history of promoting neoliberal economic policies and benefits to corporations while serving in public office.
The son of European immigrants, he has spent a great deal of his life outside of Peru. His father, Maxime Kuczynski, was of Polish and Jewish background and came to Peru to study and treat leprosy. His mother, Madeleine Godard, PPK is cousin of renowned French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.
PPK started his primary education at the elite British school in Peru called Markham and then moved on to secondary education at the Rossall boarding school in England. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Politics, Economics and Philosophy from Oxford University, and a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton. In 1962, he first married Jane Dudley Casey, daughter of U.S. House representative Joseph E. Casey, and obtained U.S. citizenship through that marriage. Later PPK divorced and remarried another U.S. citizen Nancy Lange, cousin of actress Jessica Lange.
PPK returned to Peru in 1967 to work as one of the directors of the National Reserve Bank during the first government of Fernando Belaunde. However, in 1967 a popular leftist military government took power and accused PPK of funnelling an amount equivalent to US$115 million by today's standards, to benefit Nelson Rockefeller’s International Petroleum Company. Following those accusations, PPK escaped as an exile to the U.S.
"I was jailed and I left the country during the military government," he admitted at the last presidential debate.
Before returning to Peru, PPK worked for international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, or IMF. He returned briefly in 1980 to become the minister of energy and mining for the second government of Belaunde. In this post, he led the privatization of national companies. After his term as minister, he left Peru once more and worked as the director of various banks and large corporations.
"When I was a minister of (President) Belaunde it was a very difficult time and I had a good offer outside (of the country)," he explains.
Meanwhile in Peru, Alberto Fujimori staged a constitutional coup in 1992 and became an authoritarian head of state. It wasn't until democracy was restored in 2002 that PPK returned, this time appointed prime minister by President Alejandro Toledo.
While in government, PPK handled the concession of one of the most productive natural gas fields in the country to U.S. company Hunt Oil, for which he previously worked as an advisor. When such issues were raised during the presidential debate, PPK responded that "lot 56 was an issue of a concession where there were four companies involved. Three of them desisted. The one that stayed negotiated according to the law of hydrocarbons with the government at the time."
As prime minister, PPK was also in charge of changing regulations to allow for the exportation of gas previously reserved for local consumption benefiting transnational company Repsol, among others.
PPK is also known for his pro-business publications. In 2003, he co-edited an influential book with John Williamson, the author of "The Washington Consensus." Despite the failures of the market economy and privatization in Latin America, PPK has defended these policies in his writings. At a lecture in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, PPK defended private investments in water and energy services arguing, "if you are poor fiscally, then you are going to have to have the private sector do it."
Kuczynski ran for president in 2011. However, he was unsuccessful. Most criticism was about whether his allegiances lay with Peru or the U.S. He was also heavily criticized for his history of serving multinationals and pushing for neoliberal, or free market oriented approaches. In 2016, he was narrowly able to make it to the second round of elections, but this time he had to quit the boards of more than 14 corporations and renounce his U.S. nationality. He narrowly defeated leftist Veronika Mendoza for a spot in the runoff election. Once there, he rallied the support of the 45 percent of Peruvians who rejected the return of an authoritarian regime under the banner of Fujimorismo. After hearing the preliminary results giving him the presidency, PPK gave a speech stating "we despise dictatorship and love dialogue" and the public followed by chanting, "yes to democracy, no to dictatorship!"
The final results will be announced soon but statisticians agree he will beat the candidate of Fujimorismo, Keiko Fujimori, by less than 0.5 percent of the vote. A week before the election he was down in the polls by bewtween 6 to 10 points—well over the margin of error. Most analysts claim the reversal of that trend is due to four factors: the endorsement of leftist Veronika Mendoza who claimed Fujimori was the worse option for the country, the marches against Fujimori the week before election day that rallied over 100,000 people and captured the attention of the media, the scandals linking Fujimorismo with drug trafficking, and an improved performance by PPK in the last debate.
Partial List of Posts Held by PPK in the Private Sector
- Partner of Latin America Private Equity and senior advisor at The Rohatyn Group, LLC
- Strategic advisor of Pegasus Capital Advisors, L.P
- President, founder, and chief executive officer of the Latin American Enterprise Fund from 1992 to 2001
- Chief executive officer, founder, and president of Westfield Capital Ltd. from 1992 to 2001
- Chief executive officer and president of Halco Mining from 1977 to 1980
- Partner of Kuhn Loeb & Co. International from 1973 to 1975
- Chief executive officer and president of the Latin America Enterprise Capital Corp. from 1994 to 2001
- Director of Pure Biofuels del Peru S.A.C. since June 14, 2012
- Director at CAP, SA, Siderurgica Argentina
- Director at Edelnor, S.A., and
- Director at Advanced Metallurgical Group
- Founding director of Ternium Inc. and its predecessors since 1992
- Chairman of the Supervisory Board at AMG Advanced Metallurgical Group N.V. from 2007 to 2015
- Chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston Corporation from 1982 to 1992
- Chairman of Shelton Greater China Fund from 2007 to 2011
- Director of Tenaris S.A. until 2004
- Director of Credit Suisse International from 1982 to 1992
- Director at Ternium S.A. from 2007 to 2015
- Director at Magma Copper
- Director at Southern Peru Copper Corp
- Member of the International Advisory Board of Toyota Motor Company
- Trustee of Shelton Greater China Fund from 2002 to 2004 and again from 2006 to 2011
- Chairman of First Boston International from 1982 to 1992
- Member of Latin American Advisory Board at Deutsche Bank AG since 2008
Public Posts held by PPK:
- Prime minister for the government of Peru from 2005 to 2006
- Minister of Economy and Finance from 2001 to 2002
- Minister of Economy and Finance from 2004 to 2005.
- Minister of Energy and Mining from 1980 to 1982.
- Director of the Peruvian Central Bank from 1967 to 1969
- Various positions at the Reserve Bank of Peru
- Various positions at the World Bank since 1961
- Various positions at the IMF