Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on First Official U.S. Visit

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Yesterday, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala began a three-day visit to the United States, marking the first official visit since he took office two years ago. Today, Humala met with U.S. President Barack Obama as well as other U.S. officials; he will also visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to tour the school and sign agreements with school administrators.

Peruvian officials see the visit as coming at an opportune time, when Peru-U.S. relations are at a peak. Harold Forsyth, the Peruvian ambassador in Washington, called the visit “historic,” and said it “marks a new level of bilateral support between Peru and the United States.” Many Peruvians believe that the meetings will not only strengthen the two countries’ relationship, but will also help promote Peru’s emergence as a global player.

President Humala kicked off his visit yesterday with a public speech in Washington that highlighted the importance of Peru’s diverse natural resources, including agricultural and mineral exports, to the international economy. But he also acknowledged the country’s struggle with corruption and inequality.

“Today we are talking about creating a good government,” Humala said. “We’ve had to work to create trust, because Peru is in a place where the citizens do not believe in their government. They are not seeing the tangible results that will allow them to develop.”

Today, Humala met with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other U.S. officials. The conversations revolved around key topics such as education, security, energy and climate change, support for micro and small businesses, science and technology, and the fight against drug trafficking. Climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are particularly pertinent to Peru, as the country seeks to solve its massive pollution and urban transport issues.

At their bilateral meeting today, Obama called Peru “one of our strongest and most reliable partners in the hemisphere.”

Also on the agenda for this week is further discussion regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement currently in negotiation among 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Peru and the United States. In their joint statement today, both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to concluding negotiations by the end of the year. Two-way trade has grown substantially in recent years, and U.S. investment in Peru has helped integrate the country into the world economy. The TPP would further deepen economic ties by opening up trade in goods and services.

Peru’s economy has expanded rapidly in recent years, leading to an overall rise in living standards. Yet crushing poverty still exists, mainly in urban slums surrounding Lima as well as in the country’s rural areas. One of the goals of Humala’s visit is to address ways to foster social and economic inclusion in Peru.

“We are not the poorest,” Humala stated in an address on Monday at the Center for American Progress, “but we are the most unequal.”

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