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Eliane Karp

Eliane Karp

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eliane Karp (born September 24, 1953), a French-born anthropologist and economist, is the wife of the former president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo.[1]



[edit]Early life

Eliane Chantal Karp-Toledo was born in Paris in 1953. Throughout her youth, Karp was involved in the movement supporting Israel's statehood, volunteering her time abroad.[2] She studied economics at the Lycée Français in Brussels, and earned herB.A. in anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializing in Latin American Studies. She holds a Master of Arts in Anthropology from Stanford University. Karp has taken courses on indigenous communities at the University of Mexico, and has done graduate work on Anthropology and Economic Development at the Catholic University of Peru.

At Stanford, she met Alejandro Toledo and married him in 1979. Karp first came to Peru in the late 1970s to study Indian (indigenous) communities while working on her Ph.D. In 1992 Karp and Toledo divorced and she returned to Israel with their daughter, Chantal. There she worked at Bank Leumi in Tel Aviv, Israel, and was in charge of developing relationships with foreign banks. The couple remarried and returned to Peru before her husband's 1995 campaign.[3]

Karp has also worked for the European Investment Bank, the OAS, UNDP and UNICEF. She has also been an adviser for many banks and financial institutions both in Peru and abroad for development and investment projects.

Karp speaks seven languages: French, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Dutch, Portuguese,Flemish, and Quechua, a native Andean language.

During her husband's 2001 bid, Karp contributed to a campaign which drew deeply on Toledo's indigenous heritage. She donned traditional Andean costume, rallied voters in Quechua, and demonstrated the couple's commitment to indigenous issues.According to the New York Times, "her flaming red hair and fiery speeches made her a popular and controversial fixture at campaign rallies.”[4]

[edit]First Lady

In 2001, Karp became the First Lady of the Republic of Peru when her husband, Alejandro Toledo was elected President of the country. She served as First Lady until 2006. During this period, Karp became the Honorary President and Founder of the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Communities of Latin America and the Caribbean.

As during the campaign, Karp proved to be an influential if divisive figure. Her activism in political-particularly indigenous-issues unsettled many, and, along with her continued support of her husband through several scandals, strengthened comparisons in the media to Hillary Clinton. [5]


Many Peruvians hoped that the election of Peru's first indigenous president would lead the way for assertion of indigenous rights and addressing the issues most affecting natives. Shortly after inauguration, the Toledo administration created the National Commission on Andean, Amazon and Afro Peruvian Communities (CONAPA) of Peru, which Karp served as president. The agency was meant to establish a development agenda for indigenous communities, provide representation of indigenous interests within the government, and lead the way for multi-cultural constitutional reforms. Some critics viewed these actions as a state co-optation of indigenous identity, mockingly dubbing the agency the “Karp Comission.”[6] Others lament the ineffectiveness of the organization. Noting its lack of funding, its low level of representation of the state sector, its ad honore members, and lack of implementing powers, Diana Vindling calls the commission "no more than a space for dialogue."[7] On the other hand, despite the lack of tangible outcomes, Oxfam's Martin Scurrah points out the agency's good work noting that in addition to promoting a chapter on indigenous rights in the new constitution, Eliane Karp has "intervened on numerous occasions in support of or in defense of indigenous initiatives."[8] She also opened the "Desamparados" train station as a cultural center dedicated to the country's first nations, and also organized numerous other exhibits around the world.[9]

Some critics viewed the very creation of the commission as a step backwards for indigenous Peruvians, noting its leadership by a person with no official place in the government rather than a Ministry head. The commission also absorbed the former SETAI (office of indigenous affairs) which led to a loss of autonomy and dynamism for that agency.Others cited a conflict of interest in Karp's leadership of the commission's public works and her private NGO, Fundacion Pacha.[10] In 2003, partly in response to these criticisms, Karp resigned from CONAPA, which was subsequently restructured as a national institute rather than a commission.[11]

[edit]Yale Artifacts

Throughout Toledo’s presidency, Karp participated in negotiations with Yale University for the return of over 350 indigenous artifacts. The museum pieces were excavated from Machu Picchu around 1915 and sent to Yale on a twelve month loan. On this matter, Peru had the support of the National Geographic Society and Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. Negotiations stalled when the university refused to acknowledge Peru as the sole owners of the artifacts, but resumed under the García presidency. In a New York Times op-ed, Karp accused Yale of waiting out “Peru’s first elected indigenous president, until Peru had a new leader who is frankly hostile to indigenous matters.” She also criticized the ultimate agreement made in 2008. Under the terms, Peru must build a museum and research center near Machu Picchu to Yale’s specifications before they will receive a portion of the articles for display and study.[12] She continued her public criticism of the deal which left most of the artifacts with Yale, even as President Garcia celebrated with the centennial of Macchu Pichu's discovery.[13]

[edit]Pacha Foundation for a Change

In 2001, Karp started Fundación Pacha, a non-profit organization overseeing development projects for indigenous Peruvians. The foundation “places special emphasis on the design of sustainable development projects based on traditional and communal organizations and the development of productive skills to promote the comparative economic advantages of the Peruvian biodiversity and its rich potential for ecotourism.”[14] Karp remained the head of the organization until 2006. Pacha’s micro projects have included vaccinations for Amazonian peoples against yellow fever, hepatitis B, and malaria, building basic community institutions, and providing equipment for basic medical care centers in rural areas with indigenous populations.[15]

[edit]Current activities

Karp serves on the board of several organizations. She is the Honorary President and Founder of the Fund for Development of Indigenous Communities of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Since leaving the Office of the First Lady, Karp has been an active academic. She currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she is an Adjunct Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. She teaches classes there on the culture and social organization of indigenous peoples in the Andean countries and their struggle for greater rights and participation in public life and democratic politics.

Previously, Karp-Toledo was at Stanford University, where she was a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, as well as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.[16]



  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane. Los pueblos indígenas en la agenda democrática: Estudios de caso de Bolivia, Ecuador, México y Perú. Corporación Andina de Fomento, 2006.
  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane: Allin Kausaynapaq, Interculturalidad y participación: Para vivir mejor con nosotros mismos. Office of the First Lady of the Nation. Lima, May 22, 2006.
  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane: La Diversidad Cultural y los ciudadanos del Sol y La Luna – Propuestas para la inclusión social y el desarrollo con identidad de los pueblos originarios del Perú. Office of the First Lady of the Nation. Lima, November 30, 2004.
  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane; Lema Tucker, Linda (eds.): El Tema Indígena en Debate. Aportes para la Reforma Constitucional. Presented in the Congress of the Republic of Peru. Office of the First Lady of the Nation. Lima, April 2003.
  • Karp de Toledo, Eliane: Hacia una nueva Nación, Kay Pachamanta. Office of the First Lady of the Nation. Lima, July 2002. Second Edition, October 2002. Third Edition, June 2003.


  1. ^ García, María Elena (2005). Making indigenous citizens: identities, education, and multicultural development in Peru. Stanford University Press. pp. 56–.ISBN 9780804750158. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  2. ^,7340,L-3318035,00.html
  3. ^,7340,L-3318035,00.html
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Indigenous World 2002-2003, Diana Vinding, Retrieved May 30, 2011
  8. ^ Making Indigenous Citizens, Maria Elena Garcia, 2005, Retrieved May 30, 2011
  9. ^
  10. ^ Making Indigenous Citizens, Maria Elena Garcia, 2005, Retrieved May 30, 2011
  11. ^ Beyond Neoliberalism in Latin America? John Burdich et al, Retrieved June 1, 2011
  12. ^
  13. ^ Karp, Eliane (7 July, 2011) "Macchu Pichu: What Are We Celebrating?" Living in Peru. Retrieved 9 July, 2011.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. Fuente:wikipedia

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