Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the 77-years old economist who took office as President of Peru on July 28, has strong ties both with the city of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh.
After receiving a master in public affairs from Princeton University, in 1961, he began working in the World Bank as a regional economist for Latin American countries. Then he moved back to Peru and worked in the Central Bank, but returned to the United States in 1969 because of the political persecution during the Juan Velasco Alvarado dictatorship. He returned to work for the World Bank, and in 1975 became the chief economist for the International Finance Corporation, the private finance arm of the World Bank.
Kuczynski moved from Washington to Pittsburgh in 1977, when he was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Halco Mining. Halco is an international consortium mining company with operations in West Africa, and Kuczynski operated a major bauxite mine in Guinea. He kept that job until 1980.
In parallel to being President of Halco, Kuczynski worked as an adjunct professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh between 1977 and 1980. Among other courses, he taught “Economic Development in Latin America,” for the Economics Department, a course also recognized as meeting a requirement for the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) graduate certificate. He co-taught the course and worked closely with Professor of Economics and former CLAS director Carmelo Mesa-Lago. He remembers that experience as very “enriching for the students and me because of his enormous experience in Latin America.”
Besides his work as a top executive and adjunct professor, Kuczynski was a productive author during his time in Pittsburgh. For example, in 1977 he published Peruvian Democracy under Economic Stress: an Account of the Belaunde Administration, 1963-1968” (Princeton University Press).
But the ties with Pitt go beyond his teaching and writing experience. “We have been friends since then. He was in our house in Beechwood Blvd for dinner and ran every morning on that street. Last November I visited him in his home in Lima and we spoke for more than an hour about his ideas for Peru and also about the need of a general pension reform,” said Mesa-Lago to Panoramas.
Back in Peru, Kuczynski was Minister of Finance and Minister of Mines. He founded the center-right party Peruvians for Change (Spanish: Peruanos Por el Kambio, PPK, which are also the initials of his name). He defeated Keiko Fujimori, the candidate of the right party Popular Force (Fuerza Popular), in the runoff elections held on June 9. Center-left parties supported Kuczynski to prevent a return of Fujimorismo. Probably one of the biggest challenges that Kuczynski will face is that his party has only 18 of the 130 seats in Congress. This minority position will force him to work with a variety of parties, perhaps including Fujimori’s Popular Force party, which has 71 of the legislative seats.