Interview »

Image preview
  • Picture 0
  • Picture 1
  • Picture 2
  • Picture 3
  • Picture 4
When you look at the political history of Peru in recent years, you will collect a lot of material for an exciting novel, possibly a political thriller. The Odebrecht scandal surrounding a Brazilian construction company, for example, revealed how deeply corruption has eaten its way into state structures. Several former presidents of the Latin American country had to answer for the affair. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who belongs to this group, could not withstand the public pressure and resigned at the end of March. Earlier, the pardon of the controversial ex-president Alberto Fujimori was one of his last official acts. That divided the country. Fujimori had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for serious human rights violations.

However, the numerous Peruvian political dramas are clouding the actually good news, which rarely make it into the German media mainstream. The country has experienced remarkable economic growth over the past ten years, which has made it possible to reduce the poverty rate of the population by half during this period. Several major billion-euro construction projects are in the planning stage. The tourism sector is booming. Of course, Peru offers overwhelming natural landscapes, cities shaped by the Inca culture and colonial times and the Wonder of the World Machu Picchu. In an interview with Diplomatisches Magazin, the Ambassador of Peru H.E. Elmer Schialer speaks about the bright and shady sides of his country.

, on March 21 President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski announced his resignation. This announcement was made in the wake of an ongoing impeachment procedure as well as corruption charges within the context of the Odebrecht scandal. In a video message to the Peruvian people, he spoke of necessary constitutional and political reforms. What did he mean?

Of course we don’t exactly know what he meant, and it’s difficult to speculate over that. However, it’s a fact that at the beginning of this year, Peru has experienced a complicated political struggle between the government and the parliament. President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski stepped back and the first vice president at the time – and now our current president – Martín Vizcarra took over. It was a political situation that wasn’t easy and that generated a lot of speculation. But in the end, it was solved constitutionally. Peru may have experienced a political crisis, but rule of law and democracy were highly respected in its solution. This was recognised and emphasised during the 8th America Summit, the meeting of heads of state and government of the American continent that took place last April in Lima.

Official Name: Republic of Peru Population: 32.5 Mil. Government: Unitary Presidential Republic
Capital: Lima Population density: 23 inhabitants per km² Head of goverment: Prime Minister César Villanueva
Area: 1.285.216 km² Official language: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara Anthem: Somos libres, seámoslo siempre

“At the beginning of this year, Peru experienced a complicated political struggle between the government and the parliament.”

Let’s stay on that topic for a minute. The impeachment procedures were introduced by Keiko Fujimori, the opposition leader and the daughter of the former president Alberto Fujimori. After he was pardoned earlier this year, he’s now facing trial again in the matter of a supposed massacre of six farmers in 1992. Can you explain this story to our readers?

This second impeachment procedure – the first failed last December – was not initiated by the opposition group “Fuerza Popular,” which is the party led by Keiko Fujimori; they simply added their support to the procedure later on. It was initiated by many smaller parties that have strongly criticised the government of the president, both due to the corruption charges from the Odebrecht scandal, which you already mentioned, and due to the pardoning of former President Fujimori. The relationship between the parliament and the government has been tense since Kuczynski took office. The opposition enjoys a significant majority in the legislative branch, while the ruling party only won 17 out of 130 parliamentary seats in the last elections. Kuczynski won the run-off elections against Fujimori by about 45,000 votes. The result was a rather complicated political constellation.

Regarding the former president Fujimori: He received a pardon for humanitarian reasons due to already concluded cases with fixed rulings. However, as is the case with any other citizen, it doesn’t mean that Fujimori doesn’t have to face other potential court cases.

Some economic branches suffered from the political scandal of 2017, but they’re now looking for new ways to access the enormous potential of the growing middle class. Foreign direct investment and technological advances are also creating new energy. What is the path of the Peruvian economy?

Yes, the political noise in my country in 2017 also caused our economic growth to slow down this year. Other important factors were the corruption charges that affected many important businesses, the end of the raw material supercycle – even though raw material prices have recovered a little bit – and the large storm that hit northern Peru in early 2017 and which destroyed a large part of the infrastructure in that area. But the latest figures show that the Peruvian economy is on the upswing. The IWF and the Peruvian Central Bank estimate that the Peruvian economy’s GDP will grow by 3.7 to four percent this year, which will make it one of the quickest-growing economies in Latin America. This shows once again the immense investment potential that Peru offers to strong economies such as Germany’s. This potential, which is estimated to lie at over 40 billion US dollars, is especially evident in the mining sector, the energy sector (including renewable energies), the infrastructure sector, the industry, and so forth.

Germany – “The export champion” – is Peru’s largest trading partner in Europe. So the time is ripe to significantly increase German investment in Peru. Germany is the world’s fourth-largest foreign investor, but its investments are pretty small in Latin America.

“The political noise in my country in 2017, also caused our economic growth to slow down.”

Machu Picchu, the Andes, and the Amazons – the importance of tourism for your country’s economic development is well-known. Surely you’ve had to deal with the phenomenon of overtourism?

The tourism sector is definitely a very important source of income for the Peruvian economy and is also an important employer. In 2017, tourism in Peru generated over eight billion US dollars – 3.8 percent of the country‘s GDP – and created over 400,000 immediate jobs. In order to secure the sustainability of such a “golden goose,” as the saying goes, it needs to be maintained and cared for. The rich and varied cultural and natural gifts of our tourism industry must be maintained for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

Pope Francis recently criticised reckless environmental destruction during his visit to the Amazon region. Is the extraction of raw materials an economic necessity for Peru?

And Pope Francis is absolutely right. Illegal mining in order to retrieve gold from our rivers is extremely damaging to the Amazon region. These activities destroy the tropical rainforest and pollute our water sources with mercury and other chemicals. The illegal overexploitation of protected high-quality wood species is also a problem. Of course, every extraction of raw material, whether it takes place in the Amazons, in the Andes, or on the Peruvian coast, has to be conducted in a socially and environmentally sustainable way.

“Peru is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent, by the year 2030.”

In the Colca Canyon people can hike for hours, but they can also experience the signs of climate change firsthand. In the face of this fact, how does your government help the farmers in the more rural parts of the country?

What would national sustainable development look like?

Within the framework of the Paris Accords, we have set ourselves the goal of creating very ambitious “nationally established contributions” in the areas of containment, adaptation, and desertification, with five main areas: water, agriculture, fishing, forests, and health. Several action plans and strategies have been established and are currently in full swing. I’ll give you a small example: Peru is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent by the year 2030. With international financial aid, we could even reach a reduction of 30 percent by 2030.

Even pre-Inca cultures practised fishing. Nowadays Peru is one of the countries leading the fishing and aquaculture industry. Where do you export your seafood?

Peru is the second-largest fish producer in the world and we export fish and seafood to over 90 countries. In 2017 the most important markets were China, the USA, Spain, Japan, Vietnam, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. In this year, Peru exported fish-based products worth almost three billion dollars across the world.

DE Adolescentes is the name of an educational project that’s being mutually conducted with the Canadian government. What is it about, and what other efforts is the educational ministry (Minedu) taking in order to invest in the future of young people?

This very interesting project was created a few months ago within the context of UNICEF’s activities in Peru and with Canada’s participation, so that Peruvian youths are given greater opportunities to exercise their rights and grow into their full potential. DE Adolescentes will concentrate on supporting the creation of encompassing strategies and improving and expanding specialised services for youths. It will also help the Peruvian state establish a high-quality secondary education system.

Education is very important in Peru, whether it be in schools, in universities, or in technical areas. Germany can contribute a lot to this, and is currently doing so. We are also very involved with our German friends in order to successfully implement the German educational model in Peru. Creating value in a modern world requires excellently trained technicians with a lot of skills.

One final question: For the World Cup, Peru has been grouped with Australia, Denmark, and France, a very challenging group. How far will your national team go? And what does football mean for your country?

We are very happy that af ter 36 years Peru will finally par ticipate again in a World Cup, and that our captain Paolo Guerrero will be able to take par t. All four teams in our group are very strong and are well-prepared. Every game will be a challenge. This will guarantee an excellent and emotional spectacle. In Peru, football is an impor tant spor t, if not the most impor tant. When I watch football matches in Germany and see how the fans cheer, celebrate, and suf fer, I’m ver y reminded of my home country. That’s how impor tant football is in Peru!

Thank you for your time, Excellency!

Interview Enrico Blasnik

Pictures: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 = Mohamed El-Sauaf