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Marcela Sánchez's Observations

What were your expectations before the trip?

My biggest one was to get to see Peru's impressive economic growth in recent years reflected in some of the poorer areas of Lima. I was also looking forward to learning more about the current situation in regards to drug trafficking and environmental concerns surrounding mining.

What is the main thing or things that you have learned during the trip that you did not know before?

1. There is a burgeoning middle class in the north of Lima that is transforming that side of the city and increasing demand for new businesses and residential areas. This tremendous building boom is leading however to some illegal mining of construction materials occurring in the outskirts of he city where poverty is still rampant. According to President Alan Garcia, we had simply gone too far when we visited Pachacutec and Lomas de Carabayllo.

2. With Peruvian GDP growth exceeding world average over the past 15 years, there is no question that the country is "On the Road to Growth and Equality, " as one of the presentations we heard was entitled. But while much appears to sound great and look right on paper, it is clearly more difficult to make things happen in practice. Most analysts regretted that the country's institutions and governance leave still much to be desired.

3. Peru is once again competing with Colombia in drug trafficking, partly a consequences of Plan Colombia's successes. Now, aside from Colombian mafias there is a growing presence of Mexican and even Chinese-organized crime. Peru's drug czar Romulo Pizarro, a former business leader, said these criminals are also diversifying their markets. "Most cocaine found in Europe is Peruvian," he said. Illegal drug consumption in Peru is also growing and is present in 20 percent of the schools. He pointed to San Martin, in central Peru, as a region that has seen important successes against this problem thanks to alternative development projects that have reduced poverty from 68 percent to 34 percent.

Could you describe one moment that was eye-opening for you?

Having a poor community leader living around the illegal mining in Lomas de Crabayllo show us the paper that says, in fact, that mines around their homes are closed – just as a truck drives away filled with construction materials extracted from one of them. They got it on paper, what next?

Now that you have visited the country, what do you see as being the biggest misunderstanding/misperception between your country and the country you visited? What do you believe to be the source of this misunderstanding/misperception?

Peru's economic successes may have led to a disengagement from Washington on the illegal drug front and that is dangerous for both countries. Considering that President Garcia is far more willing to cooperate with the United States than some of his neighbors, Washington is wasting an important opportunity to build another strong alliance in the region that would serve both countries' national interests.

Now that you have visited the country, do you have any thoughts on what is the most important change in policy that is needed between your country and the country you visited?

Renewed engagement and cooperation against organized crime. That, of course, would require much more sense of shared responsibility from both sides. Peruvians, I am afraid, still have a long way to go in realizing how serious the illegal drug problem can be.

In your opinion, what are the main unrealized opportunities for engagement between your country and the country you visited?

In the context of a newfound sense of shared responsibility in the illegal drug front, there is an important opportunity for deeper engagement.

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