Trump, don't let Peru rip off American workers

Trump, don't let Peru rip off American workers
© Greg Nash

When President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE recently greeted three Americans freed from North Korean shackles, he breathed in the rare air of unconditional victory — a triumph for American diplomacy that even Democrats could appreciate.

The president now looks forward to a historic Singapore summit next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Public opinion is again on his side: More than three-quarters of Americans approve of his decision to meet with Kim, including 62 percent of Democrats.

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Diplomatic victory aside, President Trump’s recent negotiations with North Korea have validated an “America First” agenda that has long drawn the ire of establishment politicians and media elites alike. “America First” saved those three Americans from the horrors of North Korean imprisonment, and “America First” has secured the first U.S.-North Korean summit since the Korean War.

But the power of the “America First” agenda lies in its universality — its promise to put all Americans first, at all times. As he prepares for Singapore, President Trump cannot rest on his laurels; he must continue to right the wrongs of failed leadership before him.

A golden opportunity has presented itself in Peru. In the 1960s and 1970s, the government issued what are now known as Peruvian Land Bonds to pay for land expropriated in a series of land reform initiatives. After Peru’s bout of hyperinflation in the early 1990s, the bonds lost virtually all of their value.

In 2001, the Peruvian Constitutional Tribunal — Peru’s equivalent of the Supreme Court — decided that the bonds should be revalued to current value and paid in full. Nearly two decades later, the overwhelming majority of bonds have not been paid. The few that have been settled went for a steep discount.

Peru’s failure to repay amounts to a sovereign default, affecting thousands of Peruvian and Peruvian-American bondholders. Moreover, the default affects over 500,000 American pensioners across the country, including union members leveraged by Peru’s lack of good faith repayment.

Unencumbered by its obligations, the Peruvian government has spent recent months currying favor from the international community, intent on joining the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). Even though sovereign default renders Peru’s application untenable, Peruvian officials have shown no sympathy for the plight of ripped-off Americans.

It’s time for President Trump, who was elected as the champion of the working class, to step in. To allow a sovereign default at the expense of working Americans is not only antithetical to the “America First” agenda, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for other countries with outstanding debts to the United States. The Trump administration must pressure the Peruvian government to pay the land bonds in full — with no exceptions. One way is to make Peru’s OECD entry contingent upon bond repayment. 

It’s not a partisan issue. Last year, Teamsters President James Hoffa — many of whose pension funds are tied up in Peruvian debt —  urged Peru’s U.S. envoy, Carlos Pareja, to address the bond issue. In his words: “The Teamsters union calls on the Peruvian government to make good on its responsibility to pay its debts.” Other union officials have called for elected officials to “hold Peru accountable for its lack of compliance.”

The Peru scandal should be of unique importance to President Trump, who rode a red wave of blue-collar support to the White House. Many of those voters now feel scorned by Peru.

Since the 2016 election, President Trump has vowed to renegotiate or rip apart any foreign arrangement that adversely affect working Americans — from the Paris climate agreement to the Iran deal and free trade giveaways. And he has kept his promises.

Mr. President, build on your momentum, and keep fighting for what working Americans are owed. 

Ed Rollins is a former assistant to President Reagan and managed his 1984 reelection campaign. He is a strategist for Great America PAC, an independent group that supports President Trump.