(above) Source: LivinginPeru.com
Reverberation of President-Elect Ollanta Humala’s Trip to the White House
This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associates Mark Loyka and Sandra Zuniga Guzman
On July 6th, 2011, Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala wrapped up his hemispheric tour with a trip to Washington. Following his short diplomatic visits to the Southern Cone as well as other Andean nations, Humala met in Washington with a series of important key figures from both the United States and the Organization for American States (OAS), including previously scheduled meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza. Notably, Humala’s stay in Washington was highlighted by an unscheduled visit from President Barack Obama during the Peruvian President-elect’s scheduled meeting with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.
Obama’s gesture of political courtesy and respect included short discussions over Humala’s plans for Peru’s continued implementation of market-based economic policies, while focusing on the Peruvian leader’s advocacy of greater socio-economic inclusiveness. In the end, both heads of state concluded by reaffirming their mutual commitment to strengthening diplomatic ties between Peru and the U.S. The emerging relationship between the two presidents marks an insightful development in the progressive foreign policy promised by the Obama administration; an analytical study that focuses on the way in which both governments craft their relationship will give greater insight into the new Latin America.
For Humala, a warm welcome to Washington by the Obama administration comes as something of a surprise and might be meant as a significant marker that Washington is belatedly beginning to overhaul U.S. Latin-American policy, which has been somewhat lame, paralyzed and completely uninspired. In fact, prior to Humala’s electoral victory in early June, several members of the State Department, including U.S. Ambassador to Peru, Rose Likins, supported a possible new Fujimori administration under Keiko. Similarly, during her time as Ambassador to El Salvador, Likins interfered in the 2004 elections in El Salvador by threatening to remove U.S. assistance if the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party achieved victory. Despite the initial lack of support for his Presidential candidacy, Humala stressed his own commitment to resolving any problems or differences between the two countries, emphasizing his hopes for a positive relationship that deals with issues in a “pragmatic manner that leaves behind ideology.” Obama’s willingness to constructively engage with the government in Lima provides a potential gateway to renew relations with Humala’s supporters, such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia.
The Upcoming Peruvian Inauguration
The Rise of Environmental Visions
The Road Ahead
After a series of diplomatic flaws over the years, that served to alienate the region, it is time for the State Department, with the aid of President Obama, to urge Congress to appoint new ambassadors to La Paz, Quito, and Caracas, a process that can be paralyzed by partisan political games. Now, as China becomes a greater economic competitor in the region, and formally overtakes the U.S. as Peru’s top trade partner, the best way for the United States to insure its own self-interest and maintain economic and political relevancy would be to stress its commitment to new policies that favor the mutual interests of all parties involved. This is extremely important when renegotiating fair and respectful Free Trade Agreements with countries such as Peru, Colombia and Panama. As Humala’s agenda of social and economic inclusion continues to attract the support of Latin American leaders, Washington is sure to benefit from including Lima’s hopes for regional cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking, illiteracy, and poverty as part of its own policy initiative. Such a move would surely win the support of the region as well as improve the U.S.’s image at large.