Living in Peru (blog)
Many U.S. companies are already here, and the ones that aren't here want to come here. It's a hot moment, and Peru is perfectly positioned to take advantage ...
By Nathan Paluck
Rose M. Likins officially began as new U.S. Ambassador to Peru on Sept. 30. "It's really exciting," she said in a recent interview with LivinginPeru.com. "I don't think there's been a better moment to arrive in Peru and be the U.S. Ambassador in Peru."
Her time in the U.S. Foreign Service has focused on Latin America. From 2000-2003 she was ambassador to El Salvador, and other posts abroad include Paraguay, Mexico and Bulgaria. Born into the Air Force, where both parents served, her two brothers also served in the military and her son, 23, is beginning a second tour of Afghanistan as a marine.
"Peru seems to be receiving attention like never before, in the U.S. also. Our tourism numbers are phenomenal. Three hundred and seventy thousand Americans a year are visiting Peru. That's more than 1,000 a day. That's just Americans — it's not counting the rest of the world. As I say to people, Peru is very in fashion in the U.S. now, for good reasons: great cultural resources that people want to come and see, everything from Machu Picchu to the Amazons and ecotourism. And obviously the business environment. Many U.S. companies are already here, and the ones that aren't here want to come here. It's a hot moment, and Peru is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the attention and the spotlight."
You'll be here for three years. Can you mention a few of the U.S.'s top priorities looking ahead?
"The free trade agreement between Peru and the United States is an important foundational piece for our relationship. It's been good so far for both countries. Trade is up in both directions: Americans are selling more to Peru and Peru is selling more to the United States. That makes us Peru's number one trade partner, so that's an important relationship for us. Implementation of the free trade agreement is going to continue to be very important to both sides. I will spend a lot of my time and energy, and the Embassy, to help make that treaty successful. It has a lot of moving parts, from the fulfillment of the environmental provisions of the accord, the labor provisions. But also protection of intellectual property. Those are vital things for our country.
The fight against narcotics trafficking is going to continue to be a high policy priority for the United States. Not just because it's about an illegal activity, but because it is dangerous to Peru's institutions. The corruption, the violence, the implications of a society with increasing abuse problems. As a friend of Peru, we don't want to see those toxic affects that narcotics trafficking brings to a society."
Recently both the president of Peru and the foreign minister hinted at wanting more support [fighting narcotics trafficking]. Is that something you'll be going through with them the next few years?
"It's a tough environment for everybody. Our counter-narcotics assistance this year [FY 2010] to Peru is $71 million and our overall assistance program for Peru is $160 million. Our embassy has prepared a great chart about where all that goes — it's on the embassy website. Obviously, they are right to be concerned that the success we've had in Colombia has in fact pushed people who want to look at Peru as an alternative. I think the comments they made are a reflection of that concern. Because we have a terrific relationship, a great working relationship with the police, the military, the prosecutors. We have decades working on this problem together, and we have a strong relationship. I think the comments stem from their worry about a push from the trafficking organizations to find a new space in Peru. … We'd all like to have an infinite amount of resources, but that's not the real world. And they recognize that. But we'll continue to do the very best job we can."
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How often does the U.S. ambassador typically meet with the president of the host country?
"Every country is different – as I just arrived here, I don't really know. I've seen the president a few times. I had my courtesy call and we've been at other events together: the inauguration of the HONLEA conference and the ceremony for Admiral Grau in Callao."
Are there any plans for a visit from President Obama to Peru?
"We'd certainly all love that, but there's nothing on the calendar yet. President García was very nice to invite President Obama to come when President García was in Washington. … It would be fabulous; my experience with those kinds of visits is that whenever they happen, it does great things for the relationship. It is a driving event. Anything that is pending, a presidential visit is an action-producing event. For us professionals, it is a lot of work but also a time of results."
Does the U.S. has any official position in regards to the museum El Lugar de la Memoria, the museum proposed for the memory of the violent Shining Path years?
"We don't have an official position on the museum per se. I will say that in any society, remembering history, putting it in context and helping future generations be aware of what happened and the damage that can be done by extremism and violence — I think is important. So, I certainly support the concept. ... In every society when you experience a trauma like that, it is important to give people a way to think about it, to have a frame of reference about it, to keep the facts in front of people for future generations."