With a country as large as the United States, diplomatic representatives from other nations must allot time and money in major American cities to post their professional diplomatic corps. Whereas embassies are located in the capitol of Washington D.C., places like New York City, Los Angeles and Houston are common locales for foreign diplomats called Consul Generals. Yet another layer of contact also exists for these nations, with a corps of Honorary Consul in communities across the U.S. acting as official points of contact outside of major American cities. In Oklahoma City this summer, Peruvian Honorary Consul Enrique Villar-Gambetta spent several days hosting a polling place for Peruvian citizens casting ballots for their home country’s presidential election between Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Keiko Fujimori. OKGIT.com spoke to Villar-Gambetta about these responsibilities.
Tell us a bit about your role organizing the votes for Peruvian expatriates here in Oklahoma for Peru’s presidential election.
“It was my first experience as a consul from my country being in charge of a Peruvian general election for the new president and members of the Peruvian Congress. In normal circumstances my jurisdiction is the State of Oklahoma. I was in charge of the organization and elections in three states – Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas – which according to our records, equaled around 1,700 electors.
“The location for that event was Oklahoma City. Catholic Charities of OKC gave us tremendous support.”
What is the process like holding an election for Peru in Oklahoma City?
“First, the Peruvian Embassy in Washington D.C. contacts the U.S. State Department communicating that this official act will take place. Once it is official, I sent communications to the mayor of OKC and to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s office to inform them this electoral process will take place in the city.”
“Through diplomatic pouch from Lima, Peru, I received the large list of electors, which we convened. In this election, Peruvians had to cast votes in two rounds. The first one was on April 5; the second one on June 5.”
“The winner in the second round of elections was Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, of the PPK. He is a well-known Peruvian economist. He studied economy, politics and philosophy at Oxford and has a master’s degree from Princeton. He lived a long period of time in the U.S. and worked in the World Bank, among other entities in New York.
What was the preparation process like to hold an election, including the day of?
“For this election we worked closely with the Consulate General of Peru in Dallas, Texas. They were in charge of the elections in Dallas, and we coordinated actions. The day of the election, as people arrived to vote promptly at 8 a.m., we had already set up teams to meet them and direct them to their polling tables. The team members communicated through radios because we were on different floors. We also had a team to aid voters with disabilities. All went smoothly and we were able to close the tables at 4 p.m., as instructed by Peruvian Law.
“During the event there were a few issues that had to be resolved. As honorary consul I was in charge at the site, having to accommodate without interfering with the voting process in accordance with Peruvian law, which governs the whole procedure. The consul is the last official who can solve a question in the field.
“I spoke with many people, young and old on Election Day. I was very pleased to sense the spirit that motivated them to give their vote, some after many years of being away from Peru. Some drove seven or eight hours to cast their vote, as proud and concerned Peruvians. Others had not visited Peru for ten or more years, but they still wanted to be a part of it.”
Enrique Villar-Gambetta is the Honorary Consul for Peru in Oklahoma. He has been a member of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team since 2013, and currently practices law in Lima, Peru, where his law offices are located. He specializes in foreign investment, corporate law, criminal law, and international commercial relations. He is advisor in international business to a very important and large list of clients in Peru and other countries.
(Banner photo of the site of the Peruvian expatriate polling location, Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City, photograph by John Hill.)