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“Democracy must always be monitored, cared for and tried to improve its quality” | INTERVIEW

In less than 10 days, Peru has received the visit of two senior officials of the Spanish government. The visit to Lima of the Secretary of State for Commerce, Xiana Méndez – who met last week with the Ministers of Foreign Trade, Economy, Energy and Housing – was followed by the arrival in the country of the Secretary of State for Latin America and the Caribbean and Spanish in the World, Juan Fernández-Trigo.

The career diplomat met with Foreign Minister Oscar Maúrtua and other senior Peruvian officials. Among the topics discussed are those of bilateral cooperation and the future visit of President Pedro Castillo to Spain.

Trade He spoke with Fernández-Trigo about the key points left by his passage through the country and the current situation in Latin America.

– How would you rate the relations that our countries currently maintain?

I think they are excellent. President Castillo took office at the end of July, His Majesty the King attended and a cordial relationship was established from the outset. Then, as a consequence, we wanted to make a series of visits. The Secretary of State and Commerce has visited Peru a few weeks ago, I myself am here for an important visit, because although brief we have held periodic consultations with the Foreign Ministry in which we review the state of our relations, we deal with those issues that are pending agreement or clarification in many cases and, well, it is an opportunity to review everything from consular to economic issues. So it has been a very useful occasion to review the relationship that is very intense in terms of cooperation, investment, trade, consular issues, conventions pending ratification.

– What are the most urgent joint objectives for Peru and Spain?

We have a very special interest in Spanish investments in the country that exceed 5 billion euros (more than 23 billion soles). We are talking about more than 500 companies present in Peru. We want to increase, if possible, that presence. We want our trade to intensify, even though we are Peru’s third largest trading partner. We have pending the signing of a new partnership framework for our cooperation, which has always been very intense. We are talking about 90 million euros (around 415 million soles) for periods of four years, which is one of the most important cooperations that Spain maintains with Latin American countries.

On the other hand, we want to specify possible dates for President Castillo’s visit to Spain. His Majesty (King Felipe VI) invited him and he accepted, now we are pending to determine the dates. In addition, we have a very important appointment in 2022 with the Language Congress that will be held in Arequipa and will be attended by their Majesties the Kings.

– We have had a very turbulent election year that has shaken the commercial plane. Is this visit also a guarantee that there are good projections for Spanish investments in our country?

We maintain relationships that go beyond governments, it is about working with the country. But we are delighted to strengthen relations with the government of President Castillo. It is important to meet the new actors and that is why the visits are also important. For us, the business climate in the country is satisfactory, obviously we want to insist on the importance of legal security so that these investments are increased. We also want to address important issues such as the conclusion of an agreement to avoid double taxation, we believe that we can move forward to facilitate the presence of more investors.

On the other hand, we believe that this is a very promising country, the economic figures and magnitudes being considered are optimistic. It is true that they have suffered a huge shock with the pandemic, not only in the number of people who have died, but also because of the fall in economic activity that seems to be offset by significant growth in 2021. There is even talk of 10% Rebound. Which leads us to think that the country can recover with some ease and can continue to offer an example to the world and Latin America.

– A week ago, the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, told Trade which was concerned about the situation of democracy in the region. Are you too?

Democracy must always be watched and cared for. You have to try to improve its quality. Obviously we can find ourselves with complicated situations. I do not want to target anyone, but it is true that we live in times in which the separation of powers is questioned, easy solutions are sought, populism is wreaking havoc and therefore I believe that we must remain vigilant. Perhaps we can say yes, that in some places things are not going as well as they should. Due to the proximity of time, I could refer to Nicaragua, which held elections on Sunday without any democratic guarantee, with the opposition imprisoned. Therefore, it is important that we be very firm in these types of events. But hey, I think it must be recognized that it is everyone’s job. The important thing is that the electoral options remain in force and the quality of democracy is improved by all of us.

– Just Daniel Ortega, Nicaraguan dictator, referred to the EU as “Hitler’s brothers”. He also said that in Spain we are seeing the descendants of Franco. What is your opinion of these comments?

I am not going to enter the fray with the Nicaraguan president.

– It’s still condemnable, right?

I believe that anyway. The facts are what they are. And each one that justifies what it seems to him, but we do not want to enter into an exchange of disqualifications.

– First it was Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexico, and then Nicolás Maduro, of Venezuela, who asked that Spain apologize for the colonization of America. How do you approach that from your position?

We, in fact, believe that the past cannot be changed and having debates on that seems somewhat sterile. The past is examined by historians and, by the way, they do so objectively, pointing out the lights and shadows. We are able to understand that not everything has been done well, in the same way that everything has not been done wrong. From there, what we want is to talk about the future, about the relations of our peoples with a view to the future, which is what we can change.

– Doesn’t it complicate the dialogue to have a counterpart who brings issues like this to the debate?

Our interlocutors are the peoples, they are not the rulers. What we aspire to is for our relationship to last over time. We prefer not to answer, we believe that these debates must take place in the world of historiography. The important thing for us is to keep going, we also know that there are many people who appreciate the activity in Spain. I think I am not boasting when I say that Spain has donated more than 15 million vaccines to Latin America. That is what I think should count, the willingness to work in close cooperation with Latin America.

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has repeatedly asked during the last two years that Spain apologize to America for the conquest.  (Photo: Alejandro Cegarra / Bloomberg)

– The pandemic has led to cooperation between countries being basically health, is that what the future points to?

Sometimes it is a bit obscene to talk about figures, but we have donated more than 172 thousand vaccines to Peru and another 336 thousand will be delivered soon. We are open to more donations, to assignments if the Peruvian Government is interested. We made a donation of more than 2 million euros in medical supplies when here they suffered the pandemic in a particularly hurtful way. And that’s where we want to work. Cooperation has had this health or medical aspect, but we have very important projects in water and sanitation, in heritage rehabilitation and we are pending to develop a new country association framework, which is a multi-year project in which the different actions in which appear we want to help and the country wants them to help it.


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