In early March, The Washington Post ran an article on pending ambassadorial nominations worldwide, highlighting the fact that political maneuvering in the U.S. Senate was stalling numerous nominations and that, by implication, U.S. interests abroad were suffering.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Western Hemisphere, which, at the time the article was written, hosted U.S. embassies with almost half of the ambassador slots vacant. Some of these vacancies—such as in Bolivia and Venezuela—are long-standing, owing to political difficulties with host nations. Others, including in Colombia, have subsequently been filled.
Still, a disheartening number of posts remain without fully accredited ambassadors. Of these, one in particular stands out: Peru, which has been without an ambassador since Rose Likins left in September 2013.
A qualified candidate to replace her, career official Brian Nichols, was nominated on June 24, 2013, and was unanimously approved by the Foreign Relations Committee in October and again in January 2014. He has yet to be confirmed, patiently waiting longer than any other nominee for any other ambassador post worldwide.
This is particularly strange—to say nothing of the personal toll that it takes on nominees and their families—because a prosperous, democratic Peru is a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Americas. The trade and investment relationship is strong and growing. Peru is an important economic partner with a bilateral free trade agreement and a party to the ongoing TPP negotiations. Peru is also a founding member of the Pacific Alliance, consisting of four Latin American nations pursuing a new vision of economic integration that fits comfortably within a framework of U.S. interests.
A first set of artifacts taken from Machu Picchu in the early 1900s made its way back to Peru yesterday, after being housed at Yale University for nearly a century. The set of 363 objects and 1,000 fragments is part of a collection of over 45,000 artifacts that will return to Peru over the next two years, under an agreement signed last November between Yale and the Peruvian government.
The pieces, which include ceramics and bones, were found by archaeologist Hiram Bingham when he “discovered” the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911. A Yale lecturer who later became a U.S. senator, Bingham took the artifacts—supposedly on loan—to Yale University after expeditions in 1912 and 1915. The Peruvian government has long lobbied for their return as objects of national patrimony, twice filing a suit and last summer launching an international campaign that included an appeal to U.S. President Barack Obama and the soliciting of help from Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. Peruvian President Alan García said of their return, “We are proudly satisfied.”
The objects arrived in Lima’s airport on Wednesday morning and were transferred to the presidential palace a few hours later for a formal reception. A large security operation, including 600 police officers, was involved in the transfer. The objects will remain in Lima for about a week before settling into their final home at the newly-established San Antonio Abad University-Yale International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture in Cuzco. The universities will jointly conduct research and facilitate related student and faculty exchanges.
A second shipment of objects is scheduled to take place in December 2011, with all artifacts returning by the end of 2012, said Peru's Culture Minister Juan Ossio.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.