Peruvian president Garcia calls for immigration bill during meeting with Obama
United States President Barack Obama held talks with his Peruvian counterpart Alan Garcia in the White House and praised the South American country’s economic performance and consolidated democracy.
President Garcia, a strong advocate of foreign investment and free-market policies, is considered one of Washington's strongest allies in South America.
Calling Peru an extraordinary economic success story Obama said the country's economy, which the IMF projects could grow up to 7% this year, had remained resilient in the midst of a tough global recession.
Obama said his talks with Garcia at the White House had covered security issues, improving trade through their bilateral free trade agreement, the promotion of democracy and human rights in the region and nuclear non-proliferation.
In comments to reporters after the meeting, both leaders made only glancing mention of two controversial topics: Peru's rising cocaine production and US immigration policy.
A UN body said in February that Peru could overtake Colombia as the top cocaine producer in five to 10 years if the government did not take a more aggressive stance toward coca farmers.
Garcia followed in the footsteps of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who used his state visit to the United States last month to raise concerns about U.S. immigration policy, in particular a harsh new law in the state of Arizona.
Garcia called on the US Congress to support a comprehensive overhaul of US immigration policies.
A Peruvian girl made headlines last month when she asked the US First Lady, Michelle Obama, whether Washington was planning to deport undocumented immigrants. She told the First Lady that her own mother did not have papers.
I'm full of pride that a Peruvian girl is at this moment the representative of the problems that Latin American immigrants are facing, Garcia told reporters soon after the incident.
The immigration debate in the United States has intensified since Arizona passed a law that requires police to check the residency status of anyone they suspect is in the United States illegally. Garcia said last week said he was concerned about the Arizona law and was planning to let Obama know that Peru would like to see the law corrected.
Peru's Foreign Ministry says there are roughly 1.5 million Peruvians living in the United States, but they do not have data on how many of those are undocumented immigrants.
On Wednesday Peru’s credit-rating outlook was boosted to positive by Fitch Ratings, which cited the country’s ‘solid’ economic recovery and fiscal discipline. Fitch raised the outlook on the country’s BBB- rating, the lowest investment grade, from stable. Fitch last changed the rating in 2008, when it lifted it from BB+.
“The outlook revision to positive reflects a resumption of Peru’s healthy growth trajectory, which is underpinned by disciplined macroeconomic policies,” Fitch said.