Tuesday, March 24, 2009

America's PD efforts in Peru

This spring break, I traveled to Peru as part of my class with Prof. Quainton, former ambassador to Peru. Our meeting with Michael McKinley, the current U.S. ambassador to Peru, was especially interesting in the context of PD. McKinley’s primary message was that America’s role is “to support Peru’s objectives in ways consistent with our own interests.” This seemed on-point in a country with significant challenges, including ethnic and class divisions, remnants of the Maoist terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, historically weak political institutions and ongoing coca production. McKinley, along with the Peruvian leaders we met, seemed optimistic about Peru’s future, even amid the global financial crisis. He explained that Peru has the lowest sustained inflation and the highest GDP growth in the region. This, combined with transparency and good budget management, had positioned Peru well.

When asked about PD efforts, Linda Gonzalez, a public affairs officer at the embassy, described cultural exchanges and media relations efforts. She'd encountered relatively favorable media coverage in Peru. In fact, Peru's President Alan Garcia's successful free trade deal with the U.S. has been seen as one of his biggest achievements by Peruvians. Based on Entman’s continuum of “Frame Contestation in Mediated Public Diplomacy,” this favorable coverage of the U.S. would suggest that there is a high degree of cultural congruence. In reality, it may just be a sense of shared economic goals. Gonzalez cited a poll that found that 68-70% of Peruvians believe the U.S. doesn’t respect Peru. Both Gonzalez and McKinley noted the importance of partnerships to address this.

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