A Princeton moment in Peru: Alumni take up top government posts

It was a Princeton moment more than 3,600 miles from FitzRandolph Gate: two Princetonians standing together outside the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, on July 28, wearing business suits adorned with sashes in the red and white of their nation's flag.

One was Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the nation's newly elected president, who earned a Master in Public Affairs degree in 1961 from the University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The other was Ricardo Luna, a member of the Class of 1962 and the nation's new foreign minister, who was sworn into office by Kuczynski in front of a large crowd.

Kuczynski, an economist, won the presidency in a narrow June victory over Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.

Peru's new president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, and its new foreign minister, Ricardo Luna, are both University alumni.

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (left) embraces his new foreign minister and fellow Princeton University alumnus Ricardo Luna at a swearing-in ceremony July 28 in Lima, Peru. (Photo courtesy of Presidencia Perú/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

"Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's commitment to public service exemplifies the core values of the Woodrow Wilson School," said Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, the Lawrence and Shirley Katzman and Lewis and Anna Ernst Professor in the Economics of Education, and a professor of economics and public affairs. "We congratulate him on being elected president of Peru.”

Kuczynski served as prime minister of Peru from 2005 to 2006. Before that, he was general manager of Peru’s Central Reserve Bank and later served as the country's minister of energy and mines in the early 1980s and minister of economy and finance in the 2000s. He also worked in the United States early in his career, at the World Bank and at the International Monetary Fund.

Kuczynski studied at Exeter College, Oxford, graduating with degrees in politics, philosophy and economics in 1960. He later received the John Parker Compton fellowship to pursue graduate study in public affairs at Princeton.

Luna served as Peru’s ambassador to the United States from 1992 to 1999. He participated in peace talks that in 1998 resulted in an agreement ending decades-long friction and periodic conflicts between Peru and Ecuador. He helped reduce bilateral debt with the United States while also focusing on drug-trafficking issues, human rights and democratic consolidation.

From 1989 to 1992, Luna was the Peruvian ambassador to the United Nations and from 2006 to 2010 he was ambassador to the Court of St. James's, London. Luna has taught international relations at Brown, Columbia, Tufts, Harvard and Princeton universities and the University of San Martín de Porres in Lima, focusing on United States-Latin American relations and Andean governance.

He graduated from Princeton University in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in politics, earned a Master of International Affairs degree at Columbia University in 1964 and entered the diplomatic service of Peru in 1966.

Kuczynski's election marks a significant step forward for Peru and reflects voters' desire to "turn their backs on a long history of misgovernment," said Jeremy Adelman, the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, who has studied Latin America extensively. 

Challenges lie ahead for Kuczynski, though, Adelman said, especially given that Kuczynski's party has little representation in the Peruvian Congress. 

"What Kuczynski has to do is govern with a ruling coalition — and that’s going to mean being able to talk across the factional aisles," Adelman said. "Thankfully, he is a good listener and not locked into dogmas or surrounded by schemers. He's got some terrific people working with him, including Ricardo Luna." 

One of the major issues facing Kuczynski's government is how to sustain Peru's economic growth while addressing the country's inequities, Adelman said. 

"Peru has had what's called a 'superboom' driven by mining and other commodities, but the last thing the country needs is a backlash," Adelman said. "The country did comparatively well — say, compared to Brazil and Venezuela — by not splurging its windfall. So it can continue to invest in badly needed infrastructure. But the boom has had environmental effects that need to be addressed aggressively. Kuczynski is committed to that."