“It gives us great joy and happiness to welcome you, brother President-elect of Peru”, President Chavez said upon his guest’s arrival in Venezuela last Friday morning.
Humala, accompanied by his wife Nadine Heredia, had originally planned to visit the Venezuelan President in June but was forced to postpone the engagement due to Chavez’s recent illness.
As such, the newly elected Peruvian head of state informed the press that his visit to Venezuela was as much about visiting a friend “going through a difﬁcult time in terms of health” as it was about talking about formal, nation-to-nation relations.
“We wanted to come to see him as a friend and if possible, talk casually about an open agenda between two fraternal populations that not only have the same history, but the same future”, Humala told Telesur.
The brief meeting between the two leaders took place in the presidential palace where ofﬁcials report that Chavez gifted a replica sword of South American Independence hero Simon Bolivar to the President-elect.
The Caracas born Bolivar, also known as The Liberator, led the ﬁght against the Spainish Empire in the early 1800s, achieving independence for a vast part of the continent including modern day Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.
SHIFT IN RELATIONS
Humala’s visit to Venezuela represents a prospective shift in relations between the two South American nations following a cooling of ties during the conservative government of Alan Garcia.
This distancing was increased by Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Andean Community of Nations trade block owing to the neoliberal policies of member states Peru and Colombia whose signing of free trade agreements with the United States subverted the intentions of the regional alliance.
Yet in his electoral victory against the daughter of former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori, currently serving a 25 year sentence for crimes against humanity and corruption, Humala has taken a more integrationist position with respect to his southern neighbors.
Calling a meeting of the Union of South American States (UNASUR) immediately following his inauguration on July 28th, the former lieutenant colonel who once led a rebellion against the Fujimori dictatorship, has taken the ﬁrst step towards deﬁning a new path in international relations for his country.
The Venezuelan government, a strong advocate of UNASUR, has called Humala’s initiative an “important gesture” and has conﬁrmed its participation in the summit.
“President Hugo Chavez has insisted that UNASUR should have a dynamic policy as it has had. It needs to preserve its permanent agenda of discussion related to the most important topics of the region,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said in a press statement.
Although Humala has assumed a moderate stance with respect to the United States, he has made clear his intention to work with Venezuela in overcoming the shared problems that face the continent.
“Today we have a common enemy – poverty, inequality, the struggle against drugtrafﬁcking, and so many other threats that surround our families. That’s why I believe and have the hope that this friendship that we are building will carry us to a common future”, the President-elect said during a joint press conference with his Venezuelan counterpart.
During a recent visit to Washington at the invite of US President Barack Obama, Humala defended his willingness to strengthen Peru’s ties with Venezuela, a country that the White House has attempted to isolate as a “destabilizing” force in the region.
“I don’t see any contradictions in the fact that Peru establishes better relations with the United States and at the same time strengthens relations with our sister nation, Venezuela”, Humala asserted.