Expert: Election of Pro-Israel President in Peru Presents Major Opportunity for Jewish State to Gain Greater Foothold in Latin America (INTERVIEW)
With the changing political landscape across Latin America, the recent election of a pro-Israel president in Peru should open up new opportunities for the Jewish state to gain greater support in the region, an expert on Israel-Latin American relations told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Leopoldo Martinez, the Latin America director at the Israel Allies Foundation — which aims to mobilize political support for Israel by building pro-Israel caucuses inside legislative bodies around the world — said 77-year-old Peruvian president-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski “is very familiar with Israel and understands the challenges being faced by a young democratic system.”
According to Martinez — who has met Kuczynski personally and calls him “a very smart guy who is on top of everything and knows who is who” — Peru’s new president has connections high up among Israel’s political elite.
“When Kuczynski was working for the First Boston International Bank, which was later acquired by Credit Suisse, he traveled to Israel extensively,” Martinez said. “In Israel, he met Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then the minister of finance, as well as [former Israeli prime minister and president] Shimon Peres. He knows the dynamics in Israel and prominent leaders there.”
Following his career in banking and finance, Kuczynski moved into Peruvian politics, where he served as the country’s finance minister and prime minister. According to Martinez, Kuczynski has supported pro-Israel causes in government affairs, including his organization’s efforts to establish a pro-Israel caucus inside the Peruvian Congress.
“Kuczynski knows the reality on the ground in Israel. While we do not yet know what his foreign policies will be exactly, we do know he understands Israel and its challenges,” Martinez stated. “This is very good for Israel.”
Kuczynski’s election has two major implications for Israel, Martinez explained to The Algemeiner.
“Israel is an observer member of the Pacific Alliance trade bloc, which is made up of a pool of countries working to increase economic ties. One of the main founders, alongside Mexico, Colombia and Chile, is Peru. The main focus of the Alliance is commercial and has not been penetrated by the left-wing, Bolivarian, 21st century socialist ideologues. Israel, as an observer, already has a voice in this forum but now it has a key ally in the form of Peru,” he said.
With Kuczynski’s election, Peru now joins two other key Latin American countries — Paraguay and Argentina — that have pro-Israel leaders. The significance for Israel, Martinez said, is great.
“With President Horacio Cartes in Paraguay and President Mauricio Macri in Argentina, and now with Kuczynski in Peru, Israel can build a strong pro-Israel bloc in Latin America to start pushing pro-Israel legislation,” Martinez said. “These three key leaders can now stand up in a united front and defend Israel.”
Kuczynski — a well-respected economist and center-right politician — officially became Peru’s president-elect on Friday when his main opponent, Keiko Fujimori — daughter of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who in 2009 was sentenced to 25 years in prison for human rights violations — conceded defeat in what is being called the country’s closest election in history.
Peru’s new president also has ties to the Jewish community through his father, Maxime Hans Kuczynski, who is of Polish-German Jewish descent. A practicing doctor, the elder Kuczynski left Germany following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and moved to Peru with his Swiss wife in 1936.