It was an extraordinary experience [speaking about running for president in Peru’s 2000 elections]. I wrote books about poverty at Harvard, at Stanford. But I realized that I was just writing books for the library that didn’t affect the lives of the poor. And although I escaped extreme poverty due to a statistical error, I couldn’t forget about my brothers and sisters who still remained in the dark hole of poverty or extreme poverty.
Yes, I entered politics without ever having participated in my life and without having a party. I decided to start a political party, Perú Posible, with five former students in ’96 and 2000. But in 2000, it wasn’t my turn to be a candidate. It was my turn – destiny charged me to first lead a democratic movement to recover democracy, and then after that we would think about elections. We did the March of the Four [name given to opposition street protests organized against President Alberto Fujimori's fraudulent presidential victory in 2000 and a reference to the four corners of the Inca Empire.]
I participated in the year 2000 – April of the year 2000, and I won the elections. I had 49 percent, and [former Peruvian President Alberto] Fujimori had 41 percent. However, when he heard what the results, he ordered them changed, because he controlled everything, the National Jury of Elections, the office of the ONPE [National Office of Electoral Processes], which is in charge of conducting elections.
At 4:00 in the afternoon, we knew the results, and at 8:00 at night, they were reversed. He had 49 percent and I had 41 percent. And the television channels were blank and put on “Donald Duck” and “El Chavo del Ocho.” [a Mexican sitcom]
It was my turn to be a strong leader. They robbed me. And I have to say, frankly, that there was a U.S. ambassador who was conspiring with Vladimiro Montesinos [the head of Peru’s intelligence agency under President Fujimori] and Fujimori.
It was President Clinton. He called me one night, in the middle of the crowd, 750,000Seven hundred and fifty thousand people in the street, young people from the university who were outraged about the theft of the elections, the – all the political parties. That night there were 750 [thousand] again, a million in the streets, outraged youth.
I say to the youth of the United States and the world that they must never lose the ability to become outraged in their search for dignity, for being just and being free. It was up to me to lead them, to march, to gather the four regions of the Incan empire. The 28th of July, the 26th, 27th, 28th of July, we had an extraordinary demonstration at which all of the political leaders spoke. President Fernando Belaúnde Terry spoke. [President of Peru from 1963-1968 and 1980-1985] They came from the four regions, and I went to seek them. They tried to get rid of them. They did everything to prevent them from coming. Many people came from all corners of Peru. Not everyone arrived. Some never made it because they were stopped along the way.
However, when they stole the election, I decided to mobilize the streets with a sweatband at my brow. It was very hard, because I was fighting against a regime that had, first, a lot of money, narcotrafficking and arms trafficking.
They found a presidential airplane full of cocaine, a ship full of cocaine. And they found arms purchased in Belarus. They went through Jordan to cross Peru, but just to give them to the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a Marxist guerilla organization] in Colombia. And they controlled everything: the judicial power, the Congress, the National Jury of Elections, the ONPE, responsible for holding elections, the armed forces, the church. They had everything. This is what I saw controlled.
And only with the strength of legs that never bow were we able to recover democracy. Nineteen death threats, tear gas – we’ve swallowed tear gas. But we won. We overthrew a dictatorial, corrupt government.
President Fujimori took advantage of an APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum] meeting in Brunei. He left on the presidential airplane from here [Peru] to Los Angeles. He left the presidential airplane in Los Angeles and continued on a commercial plane to Brunei so that afterwards he could go to Japan and renounce the presidency by fax as if it were a Hitchcock movie or political surrealism. And we discovered when they went to his province, we discovered that he had a birth certificate and he wasn’t Peruvian. And I don’t know how it is in the United States, but in Peru, to be president, one must be Peruvian by birth. I understand that is how it is in the United States as well.
He got involved with the Japanese mafia of Yakuza. He presented himself to the Japanese senate with his Japanese nationality and begged. They named a transitional president, President Valentín Paniagua. And they held elections. I participated in these elections.
Fortunately, we won, and I had the privilege of leading the country to its destiny.