QUESTION: Mr. Blinken, thank you for this interview and welcome to Peru.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Nice to be with you, especially here.
QUESTION: Yes, especially here. Peru is hosting the OAS General Assembly this year in a region so hard hit economically by the pandemic and with such extreme political polarization. What do you expect from this meeting?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We have already had a very good meeting with the OAS, the Organization of American States. This is the first time we’ve met in person since 2019 because of COVID, and the focus of the meetings we had was on how we build more inclusive economic growth that appeals to everyone, and how we let’s do a better job of focusing on equity across the hemisphere. And I think we’ve heard from countries committing to doing this and working on it together, and I’m leaving, even with all the challenges that we face as a hemisphere – from climate, from migration, from COVID, economic disruption, food crisis all of that – the challenges are real, but the will to work together is also real.
QUESTION: This is not just any political polarization. As a result, Latin America is now ruled by governments like Petro, Lula, Fernandez, Boric, Maduro, Castillo. Is the United States concerned about the so-called pink tide in our region?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t see it like that at all. In fact, I just arrived from Colombia, Chile, now here in Peru. We don’t work with governments telling us if they are on the left, if they are on the right, if they are from the centre. What we’re looking at is whether governments are adhering to fundamental democratic principles, the principles that are in the charter of the OAS, in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. That is what matters. And so it doesn’t matter the political orientation. What matters is the commitment to democracy and the commitment to work together, because what we know, what we understand, is that none of the problems facing our citizens – in the United States , across our hemisphere – cannot be effectively resolved by any one of our countries acting alone. We have to find ways to cooperate, to coordinate, and that’s what we’re doing, and I found that spirit in Colombia, I found it in Chile, and I found it in Peru.
QUESTION: It’s complicated, but Brazil, Mexico and Argentina are not among the 24 countries present at the meeting that signed a declaration of support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion and rejection of Moscow. Big question (inaudible) at the OAS annual meeting in Lima. What is happening in the region for the US government regarding the invasion of Ukraine?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, it’s important to understand why it matters, because I know to people in our own hemisphere, it seems like halfway around the world. But this is not just an aggression against Ukraine – it is an aggression against the fundamental principles of international relations that have been established in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And these principles – for example, countries have the right to maintain their independence, their sovereignty, the integrity of their territory – if these principles are violated with impunity, then it risks opening Pandora’s box all over the world. , where big countries will bully small countries, where might is good, where we have the law of the jungle, not international law that maintains peace and security. That’s why it’s important.
But here’s what’s also important. Even as we stand against Russian aggression, we are also working every day on issues that matter here in our hemisphere too: the fight against climate change, the fight against food insecurity, the production of more inclusive economic growth, on fighting crime, on drug trafficking, all of those things. We can and should, as we would say, run and chew gum at the same time. We do all of this.
QUESTION: But Peru is also a country facing, I believe, a crisis that shook the government of President Castillo. We know you have an encounter – him. What do you think of him?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Of course, I will not comment on anything regarding country politics.
QUESTION: I understand.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I don’t do politics in my own country, fortunately. But I can tell you that I had a very good meeting with President Castillo. I very much appreciated not only the time, but the quality of the conversation. And what we’ve focused on are really issues that impact the lives of Peruvians and Americans. For example, Peru has been incredibly generous in taking in so many migrants and refugees from Venezuela due to the crisis there. But it also represents a burden for Peru.
We – I announced yesterday a program, in conjunction with our U.S. Agency for International Development, of approximately $286 million to assist Peru in the work it is doing to support Venezuelan migrants, including communities in ‘welcome. We talked about the work we were doing together on climate change. Peru is a leader in the fight against climate change, but again, in collaboration with the United States, we have programs to help Peru continue its adaptations and build its resilience to adopt some of the new technologies . We talked about health care and the need to have more health care for people not only here in Lima, but across the country.
Well, at the Summit of the Americas just a few months ago, where Peru and President Castillo had a strong presence, we announced a program to train 500,000 health care workers for the hemisphere over the next five years. . This will expand health benefit services throughout the country and improve the quality of health care. That’s the kind of stuff we talked about.
QUESTION: Now let’s move on to another topic, please. It seems 2012, Peru expressed its intention to join the OECD. However, Peru is experiencing a paradox. In fact, since analysts talk about the Peruvian paradox – a surviving economy and five presidents in the last four years, corruption that corrupts the political system, education without gender equality and people who may not trust their public institutions. Does Peru have a chance for you to join the OECD?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, of course, I believe so, but it is a process with important criteria to respect and it takes time. But it is important because, I think, it can support the positive evolution of the Peruvian economy in an inclusive way, which involves everyone. And some of the work that we’re doing together to support that and – but we’ve seen tremendous progress in our economic relationship over the last decade.
We have a free trade agreement that also defends workers’ rights and respects the environment. We have seen trade between us increase by 140% over the past decade. It’s very positive. In fact, it creates jobs in both of our countries. We believe we can develop this, but the challenge of corruption is real. This is a challenge we see all over the world. It is very corrosive for democracy. We work together on this; for example, helping to train judges, law enforcement, lawyers to deal with this. But overall – here’s the bottom line: in all of our democracies, the number one challenge for us is to demonstrate that we can deliver results for our people.
And if we’re able to do that, whether it’s education, health care, fighting climate change, making sure rural communities participate in growth – if we can do that , then I think you will see support for democracy, for institutions. If we don’t succeed, then we have a bigger problem.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Blinken.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks.
QUESTION: Delighted to meet you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good to be with you. Thanks.