LIMA (Reuters) - Peru’s former president Alan Garcia kicked off his campaign for a third term with a promise to deliver economic growth of at least 6 percent per year through more public works and mining investments.
Garcia, a towering figure known as a one of the Spanish-speaking world’s best orators, told his supporters in a sports stadium it would be easy to achieve such high growth rates, even as a commodities slump has knocked Peru’s key mineral exports and dragged on growth during President Ollanta Humala’s administration.
The economy slowed sharply to 2.34 percent growth in 2014 - less than half the rate in previous years - but it is on track to recover slightly this year.
Garcia, who is trailing third in polls, said he would slash red tape, build 200,000 public works with the help of local governments and encourage mining investments if he won a new term in elections scheduled for April next year.
“It’d be enough to repeal everything that this government has signed to put Peru back on track!” Garcia said in a rousing speech late on Friday that emphasized hope and a return to better days. “We’re going to give the people back the happiness they deserve”.
Supporters waved Peruvian flags and danced to the cumbia beat of his campaign jingle, which repeated a chorus of “Alan, Peru!”
Garcia last governed Peru in 2006-2011, when mineral prices soared and Peru’s annual economic growth rate reached 9 percent.
Peru is the world’s third biggest copper, silver, zinc and tin producer and seventh-ranked in gold. Mining makes up about 60 percent of its export earnings.
Garcia said he would ease opposition to mining projects in poor Andean regions by transferring royalties directly to nearby communities.
Protests have derailed two major mining projects in recent years, holding up a combined investment of about $6 billion. Garcia said the lack of immediate benefits for communities had driven the opposition, even though protesters cited fears mining would ruin their environment.
Garcia promised to build trains to transport minerals from mines in the Andes to ports on the Pacific coast, and said he would quickly formalize small-scale gold miners.
He also vowed to slash Peru’s poverty rate to 10 percent from last year’s 23 percent, create 2.5 million jobs and put soldiers on the streets to fight crime.
Garcia, 66, first became president in 1985 at 36, governing as a leftist in a term marked by hyperinflation, recession, defaults and the expansion of the Shining Path insurgency. He reinvented himself as a free-market advocate before clinching the 2006 elections.
In opinion polls Garcia has been lagging behind Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, and economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. An Ipsos poll in October showed only 9 percent support for Garcia, but he is widely seen as capable of rousing support in a short period of time.
Presidents in Peru cannot hold two consecutive terms and Humala’s party has not yet announced a candidate.
Editing by Clelia Oziel