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Cablegate: Congressman Meeks Meets with Afro-Peruvians

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DEPT FOR WHA/AND, EB/TPP, WHA/EPSC
COMMERCE FOR 4331/MAC/WH/MCAMERON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ECON EINV PGOV KIPR PREL PE
SUBJECT: CONGRESSMAN MEEKS MEETS WITH AFRO-PERUVIANS


1. (U) Summary. Congressman Gregory Meeks met with
representatives of the Afro-Peruvian community on May 27.
The Afro-Peruvians discussed their marginalized role in
society, where 90 percent live in poverty and their unique
cultural heritage is largely ignored. Congressman Meeks
encouraged them to work actively to have their voices heard,
and he offered to represent their interests in his meetings
with Peruvian leaders. End Summary.

2. (U) At a luncheon meeting at the Ambassador's residence,
Congressman Gregory Meeks met with five Afro-Peruvian
leaders; Oswaldo Bilbao, Carlos Lopez, Jorge Ramirez, and
Paulo Colino and Congresswoman Cecilia Tait. Ambassador
Struble, Congressman Meeks' Legislative Director Sophia
King, EconOff and PolOff (note taker) also participated.

Concerned by Trade Accord
---------------------------

3. (U) Congressman Meeks started the meeting by asking the
Afro-Peruvian representatives what they thought of the
proposed Peru Trade Promotion Agreement and to comment on
politics in general. The Afro-Peruvian leaders all
complained about the "invisibility" of those they represent.
When Peruvian politicians speak of social exclusion and
racism, they almost always refer to the indigenous
populations of the highlands and Amazon and not to coastal
Afro-Peruvians, who make up 2 percent of the country's
population, the vast majority of whom (over 90 percent
participants said) live in poverty.

3. (SBU) Oswaldo Bilbao was particularly concerned how Afro-
Peruvian farmers, the majority of them small scale,
subsistence agriculturalists, would be included in the FTA.
He said that without special investments, Afro-Peruvians
would be left out. In a similar vein, other participants
said that special programs were necessary to create
scholarships and other opportunities for Afro-Peruvians.
Such programs existed for Peruvians from the Amazon region.
Paulo Colino asked how the FTA would enable Afro-Peruvians
to recover their lost heritage, complaining that they have
been systematically left out of Peruvian history.

No Voice
--------

4. (SBU) The majority of those present agreed that Afro-
Peruvians suffered from a lack of truly national
representation that would compel the central government to
pursue policies that would allow Afro-Peruvians to catch up
to their fellow citizens. Congresswoman Cecilia Tait
offered a dissenting view. Saying with a note of irony that
she could have used their support in INDEPA, the Executive's
special department for indigenous and minority groups. She
also remarked that, as an elected official, she could not
simply pay attention to the needs of her Afro-Peruvian
constituents, but had to serve her entire electorate,
warning that advocacy of purely sectoral policies might not
work in practice for most politicians. The group noted that
Afro-Peruvians had lost ground in the April 9 elections for
Congress, since the number of Afro-Peruvian representatives
had dropped from three to one.

Ignored
-------

5. (SBU) When questioned if Afro-Peruvian leaders had
approached either of the presidential candidates - Ollanta
Humala or Alan Garcia - as a group to press their issues,
they said no. Oswaldo Bilbao mentioned that he had produced
a 14-point agenda for Afro-Peruvians, but it was clear that
none of the other leaders present had bought into his
proposal.

Comment: Where to From Here
---------------------------

6. (U) Afro-Peruvians are one of Peru's most neglected and
marginalized ethnic groups. That their leadership remains
divided, the participants recognized, limits their possible
political influence. Congressman Meeks' visit may have
energized the group, at least momentarily. Post will lend
its good offices to raise consciousness of Afro-Peruvian
issues. End Comment.

STRUBLE

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