UM works to build image as ‘hemispheric university’ at Herald Americas Conference

Sam Montero // Contributing Photographer

The dozens of guests at the Herald Americas Conference jumped to their feet mid-discussion when Raúl López-Pérez, Latin Chamber of Commerce’s vice chairman of Hemispheric Congress, appeared to be choking.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk and other emergency workers spoke to López-Pérez as he lay on the floor, and he recovered and was able to get up after about 15 minutes.

The conference took place at UM’s Braman Miller Center for Jewish Student Life.

Recently-elected Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski joined Frenk, Peru Minister of Economy and Finance Alfredo Thorne Vetter and Miami Herald reporter Andrés Oppenheimer at UM on Wednesday as part of the Americas Conference Series.

The event was a clear effort by Frenk in building the “hemispheric university” he envisions working with Latin American countries.  He emphasized the importance of Kuczynski’s visit to the university.

“This means being the core of talent that unites the enormous intellectual talents of all the region,” Frenk said.

Oppenheimer moderated the Spanish-language discussion during the private event, and the leaders spoke of Peru’s foreign and national policies.

Kuczynski said any foreign policy regarding Cuba, a country under a communist regime, will follow the lead of the United States. Kuczynski said he hasn’t thought much about ways he would help Cuba, but believes true change will come from Cuba working with nations like the United States and Peru.

“I think that Cuba will be an open country once again. Sometimes it closes, then it opens,” he said. “But we have to help it become open; otherwise it will not move forward.”

Throughout the discussion, Kuczynski mentioned a meeting he had with Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday. He said he and Kerry had discussed the need for a group of countries to come together and help Venezuela. The country, which is in a time of economic crisis, is ruled by the socialist regime of Nicolás Maduro.

“There will come a day when there’s an overnight collapse, when there’s blood on the streets and no one will be ready,” Kuczynski said.

The event, hosted by the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and American Invest, was geared toward the growing number of Peruvians in Miami. Herald President and Publisher Alexandra Villoch said thousands of Peruvians with American residency in Florida participated in Peru’s presidential elections in April and June. In South Florida alone, 45,000 Peruvians were registered for absentee voting. The voter turnout was so big that the Miami Marlins’ stadium had to be used as the voting site, she said.

During that election, Kuczynski won the presidency by a small margin of less than 1 percent. He acknowledged the importance of voter turnout during the event and related to past and upcoming American presidential elections.

“You that live here in Florida know that Bush won Florida by 2,000 votes,” Kuczynski said. “But you also know, like in the U.S. Open, its the last vote that counts. Don’t forget that.”