APEC 2008 comes to a close

November 24th, 2008

As the security fences and blockades are pulled down, and life in Lima gets back to normal, Peru can be proud that it successfully held such a large scale international event. The numbers of delegates and the numbers of heads of state all in the capital city at the same time was unprecedented for the country, but despite Peru’s reputation for inefficiency everything went surprisingly well.

Of course, keeping presidents safe and events running smoothly is not too difficult if you declare public holidays, ask a city’s population to kindly take advantage of them and leave town, then shut down completely key districts of the city.

Once busy streets

Once busy streets

As the leaders of Pacific nations were sped around in motorcades from Miraflores to San Isidro to San Borja, various restrictions were put in place. Only local residents with pre-issued passes could enter sealed off areas at key times, while in the areas around hotels, such as the Marriott where Bush was staying, the public to pass blockades by presenting ID.

Typically for Peru, where things of an official nature rarely make sense, any terrorist with a valid ID could wander straight through the barriers. As I approached the makeshift fortress surrounding the Marriott, already having passed a vehicle blockade with armed guards a dozen blocks back, with a flash of my ID and quick check by the officer that the face on the card was indeed mine, I was through. Even if I were strapped with a bomb, I could have gladly shown my real ID before blowing myself up – no effort was made to record who I was, they wouldn’t have had a clue I was there.

APEC Security

APEC Security

It has to be said though, that anyone with a bomb strapped to them would almost certainly be acting suspiciously, and anyone acting suspiciously would immediately be pounced on… as 61 year old María Augusta Esilda Martínez Barco found out. As Chinese President Hu Jintao was meeting with President George Bush in the Marriott hotel she attempted to walk into the protected area. Do 61 year olds usually eat lolly pops? Over zealous security officials didn’t think so as dozens of them rushed up to wrestle the terrorist away before she could detonate her oral explosive device. Hands grabbed her face, holding her mouth closed. Attempting to protest she kicked and screamed as more officers carried her away. Searching her, they found a small nail file and pocket knife. Clear evidence of a well-planned terrorist plot to kill the Presidents. If they hadn’t have stopped her in time, who knows how many heavily armed guards she could have taken down.
The bruised and cut woman was held for a short time before being released. She wasn’t pleased.

Lighter Moments

As Alan García sat with Hu Jintao, he attempted a speech in Mandarin Chinese. As the Chinese interpreters fell about laughing, the Chinese President tried to keep the smile off his face.

Not one of the Chinese delegation could make out a single word of what he had said.

Maybe the Chinese, with a new found respect for Peruvians and their hospitality (García did try), will be willing to pay a fair price for the rights to pillage the natural resources of the country.

Pisco Peruano

Peru is proud of itself for its massive win in the propaganda war against the Chilean aggressor. Chile make a cheap mass-produced version of Peru’s national spirit that here is still carefully produced using the same methods as it was when exported from the port of Pisco 500 years ago. Pisco was served to delegates a number of times in the form of the Pisco Sour, the famous Peruvian cocktail that Chile also claims is theirs. George Bush at one point was offered a plater that had glasses of both Lima’s Pisco Sour and the northern cocktail Algarrobina. He spent a few moments asking the waiter about the difference, before shrugging and helping himself to one of each.

Pisco sours for Presidents

Pisco sours for Presidents

He seemed to enjoy them, as did other leaders.

Final Photo Op

I was a little disappointed that in the capital of an Andean nation, in an event where leaders pose for a light-hearted photo in the country’s national dress, that it was decided to ignore the Andes altogether – almost admitting to the world that APEC is indeed only for the rich, and for Peru’s wealthy coastal residents – by having leaders pose in a simple poncho that at worst was not very Peruvian and at best, something only representing the coast.

As the rural poor that make up the majority of the nation protest that they see nothing of the supposedly huge economic progress said to be occurring, it might have been a positive publicity coup to see Lima and the APEC countries to acknowledge their existence.

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