Peru's former president spent a day at UF, telling the community about his childhood, his years in office and his legacy.
Alejandro Toledo ended his day by delivering a speech on poverty and the future of democracy in Latin America to a crowd of about 600 people in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom.
At the beginning of Toledo's speech, microbiology and cell science freshman Kevin Hachey walked to the podium and stood next to Toledo with a sign that read: "NO ATLC, No to free trade."
Hachey was escorted out of the room.
He was protesting a free trade agreement Toledo signed with the United States because, he said, it would only hurt Peruvian farmers. Hachey, whose father is from Peru, said he wanted to highlight the issue because the U.S. Congress has not yet ratified the agreement. Toledo continued his speech without mentioning the incident.
He urged Latin American students to go back to their countries and make positive changes.
"You have the chance to be the president of your nation," he said.
Although most people who questioned Toledo at the end of his speech praised the former president, Gainesville resident Rodrigo Gonzalez confronted Toledo about scandals during his term. Toledo was criticized for receiving $18,000 a month when a regular Peruvian made about $100 a month. He later cut his salary to $12,000.
Toledo responded that Gonzalez's data was inaccurate and he was not honest with his questions.
In an interview before the event, Toledo said that presidents should have good salaries so they are not tempted by corruption.
Earlier that day, Toledo had a closed-door meeting with UF President Bernie Machen and Provost Janie Fouke. He later had lunch with 11 professors and graduate students.
"I am an unemployed former president, but I am very happy to be here," Toledo told the group.
Between bites of Thai noodle salad, Toledo answered questions about his accomplishments and about poverty in Peru.
Toledo said that presidents can be elected democratically, but they have "serious troubles governing democratically."
He said poverty causes this problem because for the poor, civil participation is a low priority.
When a professor asked about the challenges of his presidency, Toledo said that trying to fulfill his promises was difficult because he didn't have the support from a political party.
On the other hand, Toledo said, he was responsible for an increase in indigenous participation because indigenous Peruvians saw him as an inspiration.
Toledo, who is of Andean descent, was one of 16 siblings - seven of whom died before their first birthday. As a child, Toledo had to shine shoes and sell newspapers to pay for his schooling and to help his family.
With the help of members of the Peace Corps, he received a scholarship to the University of San Francisco. He later attended Stanford University, where he completed a doctorate degree in education.
After lunch, Toledo spent about 30 minutes with a class on contemporary Latin American history.
"I know I am the good one, and I am proud of that," he said when a student asked him how historians will look at him in the future.
He said he would like to be remembered as someone whose priority was fighting poverty.
Toledo encouraged students to take advantage of education because there are millions in Latin America who don't have the opportunity to study. That opportunity is essential for their liberation, he said.
"I don't know any better way to free people from poverty than education," he said. http://www.alligator.org/pt2/061018toledo.php