National

Could Gastón Acurio be the next president of Peru?

Interview by Milagros Leiva for El Comercio
Translated and adapted by Rachel Chase

Renowned chef hinted in an interview with El Comercio that he might consider a 2016 run for the presidency.

Could Gastón Acurio be the next president of Peru?

(Photo: El Comercio)

If Gaston and the chefs of Peru could make the country into the best place in the world for culinary tourism, why couldn’t Gaston do the same in areas of security and education? What do you think has been going on in our country?

We can’t let the bad things cloud out the good things, that’s the important thing, that’s the duty of all of us who are acting on this. To search for an opportunity for advancement from adversity, because if we don’t, we turn out the lights and we leave. It’s our duty— the young people these days don’t have the baggage that we have, we’ve lived through dictatorships, hyperinflation, and terrorism and we fight every single day to keep progressing forward and to face life with hope, optimism, and freedom, [even though] we are sometimes invaded by fear. What is our duty? It’s to do big things, to dream big, and do it.

Do you think current politicians aren’t thinking about Peru?

They fight a lot. Some of them say that the goal of every society is happiness, but that’s not true. It’s liberty, and that what will help you to achieve happiness. What’s the role of the state and the people who have been elected to work in the state? To finish the work that’s needed to get to that freedom.

We just ended last in the PISA student progress survey.

This is an opportunity. It means that we could some day be first, but that right now we can’t reach that level. We have to face the issue of education with a plan, but dream big. Why can’t I have the education that Korea had 50 years ago, and they had a rural economy too? Education is the base to develop our country.

The issue is that to accomplish reforms you need great leadership, that has popular support and a political consensus. We don’t have that.

Well, we have to look for leadership that can design policies that are supported by consensus in order to arrive at the reforms that are needed, so that they have positive results as quickly as possible. I’m talking about a support, an agreement that has its base not in politicians, but in society. And for that, you need great leadership.

Maybe this is your moment. People say it all the time.

Yeah, they say it constantly. I won’t ever get tired of trying to convince them that it would be the wrong choice. The political class has to be able to generate leadership and will help with this process. It’s about creating leadership that’s trustworthy enough to bring the country together to work towards common goals.

Alan Garcia is scared by the idea of you running for president.

That’s what they tell me. You know how things are here, lots of gossip [laughs].

Would you be afraid to compete against Alan Garcia in 2016?

I’m not afraid of anything, I only fear my fears.

[…]

So there’s your candidacy! We’ve got it ready.

Yes. But don’t worry, in spite of people, Peru will be free in 2021. The first step that we need to take is stop being so polarizing, that every time someone wants to say something that could divide us, they think twice about it, because that damages Peru. One is a slave to his word, but a prince of his silences. The political class is so polarized.

Why don’t politicians realize this?

Vanity.

So back to 2016.

I’ll vote for the best Peruvian team of all time, better than Mexico ‘70. But how do you construct a team? With everyone. It has to be able to lead a historic process during five years that gives Peru her full freedom in 2021, and that can only be done with a great leadership that’s based in consensus from all different political, social, and economic forces of Peru.

I can just see the signs now. “Gastón for President.” Now you have to pick a symbol, maybe an ají or a pepper…

A lamp.

Ah, [the symbol of ] Acción Popular, so you already have a party.

Fernando Belaunde, beyond the mistakes in management that he made, and the political group that he had to face in his moment…his presence would be so important today, his conciliatory spirit, his ability to take a step back, and his closeness to the principles and values that Peru has always embodied.

Years ago, when I asked you this question, you just changed the subject. Is it possible that you run for president and win in 2016?

I don’t think Peruvian society believes that’s possible.

Don’t dance around the question. Is it possible that you will throw your hat in the ring?

If you ask me right now, I’ll tell you that it’s not possible. Today, I’m telling you, it’s not possible. Tomorrow, I don’t know.

In 2016?

I don’t know about tomorrow.

What kind of Peru do you dream about?

A place where everyone wants to come to live.

Well, I’ll wrap up this interview by saying see you soon, future candidate and possible president of Peru.

See you soon.

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