LIMA: Peru’s President-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski says the job will be the last entry on a long resume that also includes Wall Street banker, economy minister, concert flautist and motorcycle enthusiast.
Kuczynski, 77, will be the next leader of one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies after his rival, Keiko Fujimori, conceded defeat Friday, ending a hard-fought presidential election that was decided by a razor-thin margin.
The incoming president cut an eccentric figure on the campaign trial, where he played folk music on the flute, boogied stiffly to the disco beats of his campaign song and had a man-sized guinea pig for a mascot.
Peruvians call him “El Gringo” and make fun of his American accent, which betrays the many years he has lived outside his native country.
But “PPK” played up his experience in business and government, while lightening the baggage of his outsider status by donning a traditional multicolored woolly hat at rallies and trotting out his guinea pig mascot, a symbol of Peru.
In speeches, he dropped dry jokes and occasional profanities.
Competing against Fujimori’s well-oiled election machine, he stressed his age and experience.
“I am old, but my noggin is still working,” he said.
He hammered home on his promises to fight crime and create jobs.
Every school child will have a ham and egg sandwich each morning, he promised, “and a glass of proper milk, not watered down.”
Kuczynski handed ammunition to his opponents when, after April’s first-round vote, he disappeared on a trip to the United States to see his daughter. Fujimori was meanwhile pounding the campaign trail.
“He is North American,” said one voter, Lima taxi driver Mario Armando Callupe. “He doesn’t speak great Spanish. That’s what defines him.”
Nevertheless, the 27-year-old Callupe said he planned to vote for Kuczynski because of his experience. “He is very well prepared for the job and he proved it when he was economy minister. He is a big brain.”
Links to film world
Kuczynski is a cousin of Franco-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and his American wife, Nancy, is a cousin of the Hollywood actress Jessica Lange.
His father, a doctor, was an officer in the German army in World War I but fled when
Hitler came to power. In Peru he worked treating lepers in the Amazon jungle, where the young PPK spent part of his childhood.
Kuczynski was educated at a school in northern England and studied piano and flute at London’s Royal College of Music, according to his CV filed with the electoral authorities.
He then studied at Oxford University and Princeton before working in Latin America for the World Bank.
He says he was expelled from Peru in a military coup in the 1960s while serving as head of the state reserve bank.
He lived in the United States for years, working for banks and other companies.
He returned to Peru in the 1980s and served in various ministerial posts on and off over the following decades.
He is considered market-friendly, and favors public-private initiatives over public spending.
He supports civil unions for gay couples, but not full marriages.
“We are going to hit the ground running,” he told supporters on the campaign trail, some of them dressed as guinea pigs. “We will not have to read the instruction manual, because we know what must be done.”