Peruvian centre-left politician and president 1985–90 and 2006–11; leader of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance party (APRA; Aprista Party). In 1995 he inherited an ailing economy and was forced to trim his socialist programme (which had sought to nationalize banks). His government was marked by scandals, economic crisis, and the failure to control growing political violence caused by Shining Path guerrillas and drug traffickers. He lost to political novice Alberto Fujimori in the 1990 presidential elections but was elected again as president in June 2006, defeating the left-wing nationalist former soldier, Ollanta Humala. During his second presidency he followed more centrist, market-oriented economic policies and launched a populist drive against organized crime and drug trafficking. Peru enjoyed strong economic growth of 7% a year, but in 2009 fierce opposition by indigenous groups and environmentalists to foreign companies' oil and gas exploration in the Peruvian Amazon led to clashes with government troops which claimed more than 30 lives.
During his first presidency, between 1985 and 1990, GDP fell by one-fifth, living standards deteriorated, inflation soared, and the violent rebellion of the Shining Path increased. García's government attempted a military solution to the mounting terrorism, which was unsuccessful and drew accusations of human rights abuses. These included a number of alleged massacres in which hundreds of people were killed by the armed forces or disappeared. According to an official inquiry, there were around 1,600 forced disappearances during García's presidency.
He was born in Lima, Peru, and educated in Peru, Guatemala, Spain, and France. His father was secretary of the left-wing APRA, which was banned at the time, and was imprisoned during García's early years. García became APRA's secretary general in 1982. In 1985 he succeeded Fernando Belaúnde Terry as president, becoming the first civilian president to be democratically elected and bringing APRA to power for the first time. Aged only 36, he was dubbed ‘Latin America's Kennedy’. He fled Peru in 1992, to live in exile in Colombia and later France, amid allegations of corruption, but returned in 2001 to campaign once more for the presidency following Fujimori's resignation in November 2000. He was narrowly defeated by Alejandro Toledo in the 2001 presidential election.