November 10, 2010 / 7:09 PM / 8 years ago

Former Peru leader Toledo joins presidential race

* Toledo promises to narrow inequalities

* Favors mainstream economic policies

LIMA, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Former Peruvian leader Alejandro Toledo said on Wednesday he will run for president next year, promising to do a better job of spreading the wealth from the country’s unprecedented economic boom.

Toledo is in third place in polls for the April vote behind two conservatives: lawmaker Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, who is now in jail for rights crimes, and former Lima Mayor Luis Castaneda.

All three candidates favor mainstream economic policies favored by investors, although Toledo, who governed from 2001 to 2006, is a progressive when it comes to social policy.

“I return to build a better life, to make sure market prices are stable, and for jobs and employment that have dignity and are better paid,” he told a room full of flag-waving members of his Peru Posible party.

He said he would work to end sharp inequalities that have contributed to social conflicts and plagued the government of President Alan Garcia, who cannot run for a second straight term.

Garcia has paid down debt and won investment-grade credit ratings for Peru. The poverty rate has fallen to about 34 percent under him and the economy, expected to grow 8 percent this year, has surged.

But Garcia’s term has been marred by frequent protests that often have turned deadly over the government’s push to encourage new mining and oil projects. There are lingering doubts among economists about whether the economy is still too dependent on mineral exports, which can suffer from cyclical price swings.

“I am worried about the vulnerability of the Peruvian economy to external factors and it pains me that in despite of high levels of economic growth we aren’t able to change the face of the social map of Peru,” Toledo said.

NEWCOMERS

Candidates from the left, center and right will square off in a first-round vote in April. Left-wing ultranationalist Ollanta Humala, who is in fourth place in polls and nearly won the 2006 race, hopes to make it to a second-round runoff next year.

Other candidates may enter the race. Six months before election day, parties on the left and right are deciding whether to form alliances or make solo bids.

Last week, Peru’s ruling APRA party said former Finance Minister Mercedes Araoz would be its candidate, though polls have shown she would have little chance of winning.

While serving in President Alan Garcia’s Cabinet, Araoz promoted free trade and foreign investment, which have helped turn Peru into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

But Araoz has progressive views on gay marriage and abortion rights that might limit her electoral chances in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country. [ID:nRISKSPE]

The Fuerza Social party of Susana Villaran, a moderate leftist, who was elected in October as the mayor of Lima, where a third of Peru’s voters live, also could launch its own presidential candidate.

Doing so might further splinter the vote on the left. Villaran, who says she favors private investment, has criticized Humala for being too radical. (Reporting by Marco Aquino and Terry Wade; Editing by Bill Trott)

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