Humala demands referendum on US/Peru free trade agreement
13 April 2006
United States and Peru signed Wednesday a bilateral free trade treaty - two years in the making - at the headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington.
The ceremony was headed by United States Trade Representative Rob Portman, and Peruvian Trade Minister Alfredo Ferrero.
Also present at the ceremony was Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, who said that the signing of the agreement was an "historic milestone".
Shortly afterwards in Lima, the winner of the first round of Peru’s Sunday’s presidential election ultranationalist Ollanta Humala, rejected the terms of the treaty and demanded a referendum “so the Peruvian people can decide if they want such an agreement”.
At a press conference, Humala urged the Peruvian Congress "not to take part in validating" the treaty because, he said, it attacks "the sovereignty" of Peru.
But Toledo, who leaves office in July 28 following the runoff next month between Humala and a yet-to-be-determined contender, called it "a great opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Peru".
After praising the signing of the agreement, the negotiations for which began in May 2004 and ended last December, President Toledo warned that "we cannot go down the easy road of populism".
In direct reference to Humala, a populist-nationalist former Army colonel and erstwhile failed coup plotter, Mr. Toledo said he was well aware that "some people will politicize this issue in my country and in the region".
“One thing is to campaign, another to rule”, said President Toledo.
“A nationalist generates jobs; a nationalist opens markets; a nationalist is concerned about the poor; a nationalist is competitive in an increasingly global world which is requiring a human face. To be a nationalist and care about the poor means growing, opening markets, being elected democratically and ruling democratically”, added the Peruvian president.
“Without markets the next president won’t be acting as a true nationalist”, insisted Mr. Toledo in direct reference to Humala.
The United States Chamber of Commerce welcomed the agreement with Peru underlining that bilateral trade has doubled in the last three years reaching 7.4 billion US dollars, which “helps to sustain thousands of jobs”.
US Trade Representative Portman described the agreement as fair and balanced, and praised Toledo’s leadership and achievements during his six year mandate.