Meet the President of Peru - or Zayde, if you prefer


Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who was sworn in as head of state in Lima last week, is not your typical Peruvian president.

For a start, he is Jewish.

But that's not all. Because PPK - as he is known to everyone in Peru - was raised in the jungle.

In 1938, his father was appointed director of the San Pablo leper colony at Iquitos, deep in the Peruvian Amazon. There, the young Kuczynski played with the family's monkey, which was trained to fetch fruit and serve Scotch to his father in the evening.

The colony was famously visited by the young Che Guevara - as depicted in the 2004 film The Motorcycle Diaries.

But Mr Kuczynski's life and family history are worthy of their own film.

His paternal grandparents were born in Poznan, Poland and moved to Berlin in 1890, where his father, Max, was born.

Max served in the German army as a doctor in Romania and Turkey during the First World War.

In 1929 he developed a yellow fever vaccine that is still in use today. But when the Nazis took power, he was expelled from the University of Berlin.

In 1935, Max moved to Paris where met he met Madeleine Godard Monod, a Swiss lecturer in literature and the aunt of French film director Jean-Luc Godard.

A year later, he was offered a post at the University of San Marco in Lima.

Pedro Pablo was born in the Peruvian capital in 1938, the same year his father took up his role at the leper colony.

His years living in the jungle left their mark on Mr Kuczynski, who attributes his passion for equality to watching his father working in some of the poorest parts of the country.

After the 1948 military coup, Max was jailed for a year on subversion charges. Madeleine took Pedro Pablo and his younger brother, Michael (who became a Cambridge University economist) to Switzerland for a year.

The boys were sent to an English boarding school, Rossall School in Lancashire, after which Pedro Pablo spent a year at the Royal College of Music in London studying flute, piano and composition before attending Exeter College, Oxford and Princeton University.

Max died in Lima in 1967 at the age of 77 - Pedro Pablo's age today.

Pedro Pablo began his career as an economist at the World Bank before returning to Lima to serve as deputy manager of the Peruvian Central Bank. During another military coup in 1968, a general summoned him to his office, placed a pistol on the desk and demanded access to the country's stash of dollars. When Mr Kuczynski refused he was dismissed from his post and imprisoned.

He escaped across the border into Ecuador, reportedly wading neck-high through rivers and riding a donkey for three weeks. He flew to Washington, where he was hired by the International Monetary Fund.

Mr Kuczynski spent most of the following three decades in the United States, working first at the World Bank and then for First Boston International.

In 1980, he was named Energy and Mining Minister by Peru's then-President Fernando Belaúnde Terry. He returned to Peru after the resignation of President Alberto Fujimori in 2000 and went on to serve twice as finance minister, as well as prime minister under former President Alejandro Toledo until 2006.

Friends say Mr Kuczynski began to think seriously about running for the presidency after founding a non-profit organisation, Agua Limpia (Clean Water), in 2007 to deliver drinking water to impoverished areas of Peru.

He came third in the 2011 presidential elections.

Mr Kuczynski's first wife was Jane Dudley Casey, the daughter of Massachusetts Representative Joseph Edward Casey. His second wife, Nancy, is also American and a distant relative of the Oscar-winning actress, Jessica Lange. He has four children.

Music remains one of his loves: he said in a campaign interview that Mick Jagger invited him to join the Rolling Stones on stage to play at a recent concert in Peru's capital.

His entire family seems to be remarkable. Aunt Ruth spied for the USSR for 20 years in China, Poland, Switzerland and England, and Uncle Jürgen was an acclaimed historian who whose friends included Albert Einstein and Rosa Luxemburg.

And his brother-in-law, Harold Varmus, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1989 for his cancer research.

Peru's Jewish community is less than 3000, the vast majority of whom are Ashkenazim. The population has been shrinking since the 1940s, when many emigrated to Israel.

Nevertheless, there have been three Jewish ministers before President Kuczynski: Efraín Goldberg, finance minister and foreign minister in the 1990s; Yehude Simon, who served briefly as prime minister two years ago, and David Waisman, who was vice-president in Alejandro Toledo's government between 2001 and 2006.

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