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Recently Peru's former President, Alberto Fujimori, was pardoned by the current president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. The human rights abuses aside, I am surprised that Peru's political elite seem to have remarkably diverse ancestry. According to this list of Peruvian presidents, since Peru became democratic there have been a variety of backgrounds represented in the highest office.

In contrast the country generally seems relatively homogeneous; 82% are Amerindian (45%) or Mestizo (37% native-European mix; the latter mostly Spanish).

  • Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (German Jewish-Swiss French)
  • Ollanta Humala (Quechua-Italian)
  • Alan García (?)
  • Alejandro Toledo (Quechua)
  • Valentín Paniagua (?)
  • Alberto Fujimori (Japanese)
  • Alan García Pérez (?)
  • Fernando Belaúnde Terry (Spanish)

Is the ethnic diversity of Peru's presidents unique? Especially when compared to other Latin American nations.

If so, why? What has made Peru's ruling elite so accessible?

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    FWIW there are very few countries with comparable demographics, including in Latin America: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_Latin_America – Denis de Bernardy Dec 28 '17 at 19:24
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    First of all, the list is just too small for it to be truly representative; perhaps a list of MP would be better. And, if race was not an issue, you would expect the list to mirror the ethnic background of the country. A country were the majority of the local population is underrepresented is not "diverse" (see South Africa during the Appartheid). I AM NOT STATING THAT PERU IS IN THE SAME OR SIMILAR SITUATION (there are many differences, and also see first point), only that the idea of "diversity" could hide some troubling issues. – SJuan76 Dec 28 '17 at 22:37
  • @SJuan76 That's all true, I'm just curious, as here in the UK there's barely been a PM who hasn't been Church of England, never mind another ethnic background (Disraeli being an obvious exception). In most places the people you'd expect end up ruling the state, but Peru seems unusual in that it has a far greater diversity of backgrounds. It's unexpected and unexpectedly accessible, so what's going on? If anything? – inappropriateCode Dec 28 '17 at 23:52
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    People are voting this down without explaining why. I don't see what's bad about the question. – inappropriateCode Dec 30 '17 at 23:26
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No, Peru does not have a particularly ethnically diverse political elite.

The (very small) sample of their presidents is whiter than the country's general population. Note that although the country is very diverse, there are quite a lot of ethnic/racial tensions within it. Those are also due to the way of life of indigenous minorities (there are quechua villages where people live without money, hence many land disputes with the city people when it comes to this "private property" they are talking about).

Here is how a peruvian person would read that list of names:

  • Pedro Pablo Kuczynski: white (blanco, or rather blanquisimo for this one, although he was born in Peru)
  • Ollanta Humala: native and white (Mestizo)
  • Alan García: White
  • Alejandro Toledo: quechua
  • Valentín Paniagua: White
  • Alberto Fujimori: asian
  • Alan García Pérez: White
  • Fernando Belaúnde Terry : White

The most meaningful comparison would probably be with Bolivia, which has a large native minority as well (most of it from the same groups, quechua and aymara). In Bolivia, Evo Morales is considered to be the first president from a native population. The other presidents are viewed as europeans.

You could try to compare with Paraguay or Ecuador, where most of the population identifies as mixed (mestizo). But it is quite different than a large native minority.

Sidenote: both Evo Morales and Alejandro Toledo grew up in farms in rural villages. This matters a lot when it comes to identifying or being percieved as being a native.

Other source : peruvian and half quechua friend

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  • Interesting answer. You say the population and presidency demographics are similar to Bolivia, but more broadly in Latin America are the presidencies more or less white/homogenous than Peru-Bolivia? It seems like we need to know that comparison for the conclusion to be meaningful? – inappropriateCode Jan 3 '18 at 8:29
  • @inappropriateCode Peru and Bolivia are the two countries with the largest proportions of natives, with a large proportion of quechuas among the natives. In Bolivia, you can count Evo Morales as a first president from the native population. The other ones as europeans. – user5751924 Jan 3 '18 at 10:59
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Peruvian here.

Yes, I do agree with the OP. The reason behind is the colonial structure of the society.

Peru only recently has been able to create a comprehensive mestizo middle class like the one's in Chile or Mexico. Before, the presidency of Velazco, Peru was a highly colonial society with a minority elite(mostly white) and an impoverish indigenous population who had no say in the country, they were like two separate countries.You can see people like Vargas Llosa addressing this in his prologue of the Time of the Hero.

When indigenous Peruvians elected Fujimori as president, they were electing someone in lieu of an Evo, since indigenous and even mestizo people have been blocked from upwards mobility in the country.

The elites in Peru are highly insular and with a very defined culture. I say it's easier to become an elite in Peru if you are a foreigner than it is if you are a Peruvian born. I've seen Argentinians and Chileans(white) who are easily assimilated into this elite culture.

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If so, why? What has made Peru's ruling elite so accessible?

I'm not sure what you mean by "accessible," but the answer to the other question is simple enough.

Most Latin American nations have been represented by whites, even if the majority population is Native or African American. If I remember correctly, Evo Morales is the first Native American elected president of a Latin American country, and I believe Peru's Ollanta Humala was second (though he's actually Mestizo). Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was Latin America's first black president, I believe.

Non-white political candidates appear to be more likely to reject the status quo (e.g. capitalism and U.S. imperialism). Hugo Chavez was probably Latin America's most famous socialist firebrand since Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, and Evo Morales is also a very outspoken socialist.

Humala was a little more "subdued," but the media coverage during his election spoke volumes. The election was described as a tough choice between the daughter of a corrupt monster (Fujimori) and a - gasp - socialist.

Pablo Kuczynski worked for both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, both of which have been described as global parasites. He was the first Latin American leader to visit pResident Donald Trump.

It isn't hard to see why special interests would favor such politicians over candidates who might want to work to improve the lives of the majority, who are often desperately poor.

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Yes, Peru has an exceptionally diverse political elite.

I am convinced that there is no other country in Latin America with a comparably diverse political elite. It could be unique in the world, but maybe I'm overlooking some other country (e.g., a multi-ethnic African country).

However, diversity is something else than representativity. Given that many Peruvians feel underrepresented and consider reaching such a prominent position unreachable for people like them, your following assertion "What has made Peru's ruling elite so accessible?" gets criticised. For them the ruling elite looks quite inaccessible! I think that it is the weak representation of the majority that is a key factor in producing such a diverse elite.

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