Sunday, November 12, 2006

Papa Alan...

So about two weeks ago Peruvian president Alan Garcia reveals nonchalantly that he has a one year old kid with a woman who is not his wife. The details are that during 2005 he separated with Pilar and found himself in the company of a wonderful and intelligent other woman with whom he had a kid. Then he got back together with Pilar just in time to enter, run and win the presidency on a platform that championed family values and his “five” now “six” children.
I could take this in a number of directions…so I will.

I am told otherwise, but this photo looks like Alan is touting some lucky lady's undergarments
I will start with the good and save the bad and the ugly. This is obviously big news and in my opinion highlights a tendency towards deception by Garcia, a tendency that will undoubtedly rear its ugly head more as his term runs on. I will compliment the Peruvian press in that this was front page news the day it broke, and then that was it. Nobody discussed it too much after that. There was no Monica Lewinskyesque scandal where rival political parties burned Alan at the stake and impeachment proceedings precluded actual important governance. Part of the reason for this is that other candidates probably have kids out of wedlock too, infidelity is accepted here. Not quietly accepted mind you, no this is an out in the open frank acceptance on both sides of the ball. I initially was somewhat taken aback in talking with local Peruvian women that they had very little problem with Garcia’s revelation. Most pointed to the fact that he was separated from Pilar, why shouldn’t he be free to date other women? Let alone have a child.
In fact, Alan actually came out of the whole affair as chivalrous because he had acknowledged his child and signed papers at its birth that he was indeed the father. Perú has a problem with men not taking responsibility, legal or otherwise, for their out of wedlock children. In fact recent president Andres Toledo had a similar situation as Alan and was discovered to have not acknowledged his extramarital kid.

That is one happy looking couple

I find it fascinating that Alan had time to date and have a child as he was preparing to run a presidential campaign with his actual wife, Pilar, by his side. That takes talent. It is not like this is a case of a mistake made years ago by a young married guy who has since grown up and learned the right path. This happened a year ago…when the dude was 56 years old. But it is not like Peruvians can’t trust Alan…they already had him for 5 years in the late 80’s, and it went pretty well…he left the country in economic ruin with a national debt of 900 million dollars.
No biggie. Local bets are that Pilar is as ambitious and crafty as that gringa extraordinaire Hilary Clinton, and will keep her mouth shut with the promise of power and internal influence.
The most curious turn in all of this is that his wife has kept by his side. In fact she has publicly been lauded for standing by her man and maintaining her dignity. The two appeared in public at his infidelity announcement. It was like marriage counseling being broadcast across the country. An awkward moment and photo shoot. Lets just say she didn’t look so happy.
I finally found one Peruvian woman who agreed that the reconciliation photo and general acceptance of this event is horrifying for women around Perú, especially those in rural areas. This Peruvian said in essence it is telling women that this kind of act is not only acceptable, but that if it happens, they should stand by their man.
The big question for me in all of this is you cannot tell me the press didn´t know Alan had an extra kid when he was running for president. I don´t buy it for a moment. Locally people assume that nobody published anything about Alan´s fling because people were afraid it would aid his opponent, Humala, who many, mostly in Lima and the North, were afraid might be elected with a strong support from the more rural population.
Like most things here that I question, I generally get a return shot from Peruvians about my own country, which is generally warranted. So this time around it is about Bill Clinton and Monica, who by all accounts appear to not have been as friendly as Alan and his mistress. The questions are not, well, Clinton was worse. The questions are, why was it such a big deal? Why did it paralyze your government and why did it stay in the press so long?
All I can say is touché.


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