During President-elect Donald Trump's campaign, he laid blame for a number of issues facing the US at the feet of Latin America, criticizing migrants and inveighing against free-trade polices embraced by much of the region.
In return, many leaders in the region were critical of Trump — some referred to him a "category-five storm," or the "devil." And multiple presidents of Mexico — which received special attention from the US president-elect — compared Trump to Hitler.
Since Trump's election, leaders in Latin America have reconciled themselves to working with him as president.
Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski — who jokingly threatened to "grab a saw and cut" off relations with the US if Trump won — says he'd try to inform Trump of Latin America's real effects on the US.
During an interview with The Washington Post last week, Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker, said if he had the chance to meet Trump during a trip to the US planned for next year, "The first thing I am going to try to explain to him is that the US is not in the dumps because of Mexico."
"I am going to tell him: 'You are lucky you have Latin America. Sure, there are drugs and problems, that’s true. But you have to look on the positive side. We are less uncivilized than you think. We actually make a big contribution to the U.S. We don’t give you any real trouble. Latin immigration to the U.S. — sure, it should be done legally — makes a pretty positive contribution to the U.S. economy.'"
"Also, if you look at the actual numbers, free-trade agreements have been pretty positive for the United States. How many car part plants in the Midwest depend on the Mexican market?"
Kuczynski, who brought a conservative, pro-market government into office, has vowed to stimulate the Peruvian economy, fight poverty, strengthen police, and reduce crime. To those ends, his government may find some common ground with the Trump administration.
But his party has only a minor presence in Peru's congress, and his five-month-old administration is currently facing challenges from the opposition, including an inquiry into corruption allegations leveled against Kuczynski over his time as prime minister a decade ago.
Those challenges notwithstanding, Kuczynski was optimistic that he could continue the positive relations his government had with the Obama administration after Trump takes office — though he cautioned that some of that depends on the Trump administration's attitude.
"It depends a little bit on what their perception of Latin America is," he told The Post. "If they think that Latin America is just a bunch of guys who climb walls to get illegal work, then it is not going to go well. I hope they go past that."
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